Shane Victorino likely to start in RF

ByGlenn Miller ESPN logo
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell all but said Wednesday morning that Shane Victorino will be the Opening Day right fielder,putting Rusney Castillo in limbo after his solid spring.

Farrell likes what he's seen of Victorino, who is coming off back surgery.

"The biggest thing to me was health," Farrell said at JetBlue Park on Wednesday morning. "Getting back to close to 100 percent of what Shane Victorino is. He's an impact player and myself included we haven't forgotten what he's done for us.

"But at the same time we're looking at what he brings to our team and that's a guy who is a very smart, intelligent baseball player who plays [all out] and he's going to help give a personality to our team."

With Victorino tentatively penciled in as the starting right fielder, that likely means Castillo will start the season in Triple-A. The 27-year-old missed two weeks this spring with a strained oblique muscle, but has been dynamic since his return both at the plate -- Castillo is hitting .320 this spring -- and in the field.

"I just feel like if you have players who are good enough and show they can perform that over the course of the season, it mostly takes care of itself and we end up with the best team on the field," general manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday. "We end up with the best form of the Red Sox on the field, whatever that looks like.

"I feel that will happen and I feel like what John said earlier in the spring about Victorino was right. That's the right thing to say, and I still feel that way. I'm glad he said that and we're also really glad that Rusney Castillo is in the organization. We're glad that Mookie Betts is in the organization. We're glad that [Jackie] Bradley is in the organization."

Victorino, who played only 30 games last season, is hitting only .188 in spring games, but that hasn't been important to Farrell, who likes what he's seen of his right fielder's improving health. Opening Day is Monday in Philadelphia.

"Coming off the procedure, I don't think he's waiting for the turn of the calendar to say, 'OK, it's time to flip the switch.' He's worked his butt off in camp to get where he is right now," Farrell said.

"We still feel there's going to be some further improvements that are going to be had. Whether that's through durability, endurance or flat out quickness. But he's getting there."

Victorino is playing right field and batting second -- behind center fielder Mookie Betts -- in Wednesday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Fort Myers.

Farrell was asked if he liked having a veteran next to an inexperienced outfielder such as Betts, who is a converted second baseman. He mentioned Victorino and Pablo Sandoval as veterans who help teammates.

"I think the more good players you have the better off you are," Farrell said. "I do know this: Shane and Pablo, when you talk about veteran players who are willing to help, they stand out. They love to compete and win but they're about helping their teammates. And that's where a lot of your team unity and jelling together comes because of the willingness to give to one and another.

"Mookie having Shane on his left side or left of him, there's a guy who cares about him and wants to help him evolve further as a center fielder."

Red Sox writer Gordon Edes of contributed to this report.