SARASOTA, Fla. — Shane Victorino has yet to play a game in spring training for the Red Sox. When he does come back, which should be soon, it may only be as a righthanded hitter.
Victorino largely abandoned switch-hitting in August last season because of a strained left hamstring. It proved successful as he hit .300 with an .896 OPS in 115 plate appearances batting righthanded against a righthanded pitcher.
“It’s almost going to be a game-time decision. I think he has his viewpoints on it and where his confidence is,” manager John Farrell said Saturday before the first game of a split-squad doubleheader against the Orioles. “He hasn’t told me that he’s eliminating switch-hitting.”
Victorino has been coy about his plans, refusing to say whether he will bat lefthanded again.
“Farrell said that it depends on how I feel and that’s right,” Victorino said in Fort Myers before the second game. “I haven’t even played yet. I took five swings lefthanded in batting practice the other day, so yes I’m still a switch-hitter.”
Victorino is a natural righthanded hitter who learned to switch hit in 2002 when he was in the minors. He has been a better hitter righthanded over the course of his career.
“The right side has always been his strong side,” Farrell said. “I think last year his production against righthanded pitching probably has enabled him to be a little bit more open-minded to getting the majority of at-bats from that side of the plate.”
Farrell said the Red Sox support the idea.
“We want the most productive player,” he said. “If that’s what it lends to, we’d be perfectly fine with it if that’s what he opts to do.”
Batting righthanded, Victorino hit a modest .216 in the postseason but drove in 12 runs over 14 games. He had big hits in Game 6 of the ALCS and Game 6 of the World Series.
Victorino, 33, has been held out of games so far for several reasons. He is recovering from surgery on his right thumb and has been doing extra work to strengthen groin muscles that gave him problems last season.
“Hopefully by sometime early this coming week he will be on the field,” Farrell said. “All his on-field work has been free, no issues. That’s been encouraging.”
Competition is on
Grady Sizemore’s return to health could create some interesting decisions as the Red Sox assemble their roster. Can they get away with Sizemore in center field with occasional games from Victorino? Or does Jackie Bradley Jr. need to be on the roster?
“The competition is there,” Farrell said. “But we haven’t arrived at a conclusion with Grady yet. We’re hopeful that Monday and Tuesday he’s got a chance to go back-to-back days. We still have to get answers to some questions that aren’t there yet.
“There’s still going to be that looming question of what’s the total number of games played. We want to be sure that we keep a trajectory going upward rather than have any kind of setback because we’ve taken too quick a step.”
Sizemore was 2 for 3 on Friday and ran the bases well.
Farrell called it “really encouraging” and mentioned that Sizemore was 4.2 seconds down the line when he beat out an infield single. That’s not far off from his prime of 4.1.
“You get that feel there’s no hesitation,” Farrell said.
Bradley was 0 for 4 against the Orioles in the first game and is 3 for 14 in six games.
“Trying to get my timing down for the season. Can’t focus too much on results,” Bradley said. “I feel great.”
Bradley acknowledges the competition with Sizemore, but isn’t consumed by it.
“You have to look at it individually, of course. Competition, that’s what we do. We all compete. That’s what thrives us and drives us,” he said. “You do the best you can and let everything else take care of itself.”
Orioles take aim
Lefthander Henry Owens, who is 21, faced a strong Baltimore lineup in Game 1 and allowed three runs on five hits and two walks over 2⅓ innings.
“Obviously the results weren’t what I wanted them to be,” Owens said, “but I thought it was cool. That was my first opportunity to face some consistent big leaguers in a lineup. I thought it was a lot of fun.”
Owens has given up four runs in 4⅓ innings in spring training.
Against the Orioles, Owens was working on his curveball and the left some pitches up that were hit hard.
“Trying to refine it and drop it in there for strikes,” said Owens, who is one of the organization’s top pitching prospects. “The best way to start succeeding is you’ve got to fail first. Obviously today was a good learning point for me.”
Marlins officials were upset Thursday when the Red Sox flouted major league rules and sent a lineup of minor leaguers to the game in Jupiter.
Ultimately, the Marlins did not file a complaint with Major League Baseball and Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington called his Marlins counterpart, Mike Hill, to apologize.
But Red Sox owner John Henry stoked the embers of the controversy Saturday when he wrote on Twitter, “They should apologize for their regular season lineup.”
Presumably, Henry was referring to the Marlins. Henry, who also owns the Globe, owned the Marlins from 1999-2001.
The Marlins play the Red Sox at JetBlue Park on Tuesday afternoon. It will be most interesting to see what players they send on the trip.
Wilson hit hard twice
Righthanded reliever Alex Wilson allowed four runs on five hits in Game 1 and committed a throwing error. Wilson also was hit on the left leg by a line drive off the bat of Jonathan Schoop. Wilson stayed in the game, but left the park with a wrap on his leg . . . Third baseman Michael Almanzar started Game 2 for the Orioles. He was a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Red Sox.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.