BOSTON (CBS) — When Shane Victorino showed up to Fort Myers last month, he displayed an incredible level of entitlement.
Victorino declared, “I don’t have to prove anything else in regards to the game of baseball,” later adding, “I have no intentions of being a bench player.”
A rather brash approach for a player who spent most of 2014 and a good chunk of the past four seasons on the disabled list? Sure.
But he was also right.
The best possible version of the 2015 Red Sox would include Victorino at the top of the lineup, getting on base at a .340 clip and playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field. Keeping a known commodity like Victorino in front of the Pedroia-Ortiz-Ramirez-Sandoval-Napoli cauldron would create the strongest possible team on the field and would set the team up to lead the league in runs scored.
So even if you disliked what Victorino said or how he said it, you can’t say that he was wrong.
But Victorino did admit that he had to prove one thing: That he can stay healthy. And early on in spring training, he hasn’t done anything to convince anyone that his days of being perpetually banged up are behind him.
The 34-year-old sat out this past weekend due to “general soreness” in his legs. Manager John Farrell said it was no big deal, as did Victorino. But after speaking at length about entering camp in excellent shape and feeling great, his latest explanation for having sore hamstrings and quadriceps muscles is certainly not encouraging.
“[It’s ] different when you go out there after not playing for so long,” Victorino said, according to The Boston Globe. “And I made the play against the wall and going first to third, which I wasn’t accustomed to doing. You can’t simulate that in the offseason.”
He added: “[I’m] more sore than I thought I was going to be, so why make the problems worse?”
This came after playing five innings in a spring baseball game. That’s not good.
Of course, it’s still early March, so there’s no need to panic. However, even in his bold mid-February proclamation that he had nothing to prove in the game of baseball, he did admit that he had to prove he could stay healthy.
“I’ve been around this game long enough. I don’t have to sit here and talk about and focus on the things like ‘Do I have to prove myself?’ Yeah, I mean, I have to prove that I’m healthy,” he said on Feb. 19. “I don’t have to prove anything else in regards to the game of baseball. I think more importantly, I have to prove that I’m healthy, which is the biggest thing and my biggest concern and everybody’s concern coming off major back surgery.”
So far, the outlook on that endeavor is not looking too good.
There could be a number of reasonable explanations for his weekend absence. Considering he hadn’t played in an actual baseball game in more than eight months, it’s not completely foolish to take Farrell and Victorino at their word. Perhaps the plan all along was to ease Victorino back into the routine of playing, after undergoing major back surgery in early August … though the fact that Farrell announced Victorino was expected to return Monday, only to later push that one more day until Tuesday would certainly suggest this is not the case.
“We’re going to give Vic one more day,” Farrell said Sunday. “It was recommended by the medical staff. He went through a full workout. He was eager and ready to go, but he’s being held back a day.”
If you’re into conspiracies, perhaps the Red Sox are treating him with kid gloves this spring, doing everything in their power to prevent him from suffering an injury so that they can swing him in a trade for a pitcher. Considering the team has Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts under team control for the foreseeable future, and with Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt available as backups, a trade of Victorino in the final year of his contract would not be far-fetched.
Or maybe Victorino just wants stories like this one to be written. He did plead with writers to count him out, because he loves being an underdog. He claimed that he used it as motivation when writers questioned the Red Sox’ signing him back in 2013.
“That’s the kind of stuff I use as motivation,” he said. “I love it.”
Or maybe it’s simpler than all of that. Maybe he just didn’t feel like spending two-and-a-half hours riding a bus from Fort Myers to Port St. Lucie. This is, after all, baseball, where that just might be the most reasonable explanation.
Whatever the reason may be, sitting out for a weekend due to “general soreness” after playing just five innings is not the best first step in 2015 for Victorino, who is pushing the limits of proving that he has nothing to prove.