Shane Victorino has been doing little chest-thumping since being afflicted with the flu. (AP)
The start of the 2014 season has been unkind to Shane Victorino.
The outfielder thought he had timed his recovery from a variety of afflications — offseason thumb surgery, core strengthening, then soreness in his left side — at a pace that had him ready for Opening Day. But then, in the final game of the spring, hours before the Red Sox broke camp from Fort Myers, he suffered a hamstring strain. He flew with the team to Baltimore, but the next day, he had to jump on a subsequent flight to Boston for an MRI that revealed a Grade 1 hamstring strain and an Opening Day placement on the DL. He flew back down to Baltimore in hopes of at least being with the team for the Opening Day introductions and the visit to the White House.
On that return flight, however, Victorino came down with a brutal case of the flu that left him bedridden for most of the week, unable to take part in Opening Day or the White House reception at which President Barack Obama saluted Victorino, his fellow native of Hawaii. He was bedridden and quarantined from his teammates, and didn’t even have the energy to watch the visit on TV.
“I didn’t get to see it. Those first three or four days was awful. Other than the energy to watch the game, that was all I had in me,” Victorino, who dropped 8-12 pounds during the illness, grimaced. “It was brutal. I wish this upon nobody, I’ll put it that way. I don’t want nobody to have the flu I had.”
He had little contact with the team during his illness, and when he did show up in the clubhouse, he had to wear a mask to limit the potential for infecting his teammates. Though he’s moved beyond that now, but there was a physical toll that delayed his return from the disabled list. He only recently resumed cardio activity, and on Wednesday, for the first time since landing on the disabled list, he took part in some baseball activities — including some modest work in the outfield (such as throwing out to 120 feet) and taking light swings in the batting cage — while trying to work his way back into playing shape. He could not say when he might be ready to play again in the big leagues. While he’s eligible to come off the disabled list next Monday (an off-day preceding Tuesday’s series opener in Chicago), there’s a virtual certainty that he won’t be ready by that point.
“The timetable, I don’t know where were at. Obviously I want to get back as fast as I can. These last couple days with the flu didn’t help the cause regards to me getting out and doing baseball activity,” said Victorino. “But we’re going to take it one day at a time and today was a step in the right direction, getting out there, jogging, doing some agility stuff and getting physically moving again.”
He did emphasize the need to recover completely from his hamstring injury in the rehab process, given that his value is created in no small part by his ability to be an impact baserunner and defender.
“My game is my legs. It’s important for me to understand that and not want to rush to get it back,” said Victorino. “I want to get it back as quick as I can. I know I’m able to come off soon but having the flu the set me back a few days. We’re going to set out to get back on time if everything goes accordingly, hopefully that works out the way we want it to.”
Victorino anticipates a relatively short rehab assignment, feeling that once he builds up to being able to play nine innings, he won’t need any more time in minor league games. So, he expects to require just two or three games in the minors before returning to the Red Sox.
“They asked me a couple days ago what I would want to play, game-wise. I said I’d like to get two to three games under my belt, just in regards to timing. And they asked me, ‘What about the physical gain of you getting into baseball shape?’ I said, ‘If I want to go down there and get in baseball shape then I might as well do it [in the big leagues],’ ” Victorino said. “And when we say that, yeah, it’s different. I can go and be scheduled to play five innings. I can be scheduled to play seven. But to me, once I set out and get out there and play games, five, seven, nine [inning], and hopefully I’ll be back. That’s what I told them.”
So, while Victorino may not be back after a minimum 15-day stint on the D.L., the possibility exists that his time on the sidelines won’t be too much longer than that. All the same, that there is an absence of any length represents a considerable disappointment to the 33-year-old.
“Very frustrating. You work and you set out in the offseason to do all these kind of things, and having the thumb surgery, you try to make that feel better. Coming into spring training, working on strengthening the things that nagged us last year, and then have that happen,” said Victorino. “I think, to me, the frustrating part was, as I said, physically I felt good. My hamstring, everything felt great, and just out of nowhere, that’s the part for me, the frustration aspect. But, hey, you know, if life was that easy, we all would be happy, but sometimes you see these things happen. Just another stepping stone to want to work harder, continue to work harder to get back out there and be with the guys.”