The final three months of 2013 represented something of a revelation in the performance of Shane Victorino. A switch-hitter throughout his big league career, Victorino was forced to bat exclusively right-handed (with a couple of brief exceptions) starting in early August, and he excelled while doing so.
From August 9 through the end of the year, he hit left-handed in just six of his 170 plate appearances. He proved one of the Sox’ most productive hitters during that span, hitting .301 with a .378 OBP, .516 slugging mark and eight homers. (He was 0-for-5 with a walk during that time while batting left-handed.) While his OBP reflected a proclivity to get drilled (13 hit by pitches) as opposed to a discerning approach (he walked just two times in 106 plate appearances as a right-handed hitter against right-handed pitchers), his contributions were undeniable — continuing into a postseason in which he had the game-winning RBI in all three Red Sox clinchers, each while batting right-handed against right-handed pitching.
Last year, Victorino insisted that the abandonment of switch-hitting was purely circumstantial, and that when healthy, he’d return to a practice that he’d picked up in the Dodgers minor league system. But on Saturday, manager John Farrell told reporters that the 33-year-old — while not making a conclusive decision — appears to be considering full-time life as a right-handed hitter.
“It’s almost going to be a game-time decision. I think he has his viewpoints on it, where his confidence is. But he hasn’t told me that he’s eliminating switch-hitting,” Farrell told reporters. “This is someone who learned how to switch-hit in pro ball. The right side has always been his strong side. I think last year his production against right-handed pitching probably has enabled him to be a little bit more open-minded to get the majority of the at-bats from that side of the plate.
“You look at his on-base, whether it was getting some base hits, drawing walks or getting hit by a pitch, which seemed like he was getting hit once or twice a game for a while,” Farrell added. “It’s just the overall production that he started gaining a lot of confidence in. Really, when you look at his swing, it’s tailor-made for Fenway Park. All that I’m sure has gone through his mind as he considers all this.”
Farrell said that Victorino remains on track to play in a game early next week, with the expectation that he would start by playing a few innings in right field and gradually add some innings in center field later in spring training.
OTHER INJURY/HEALTH UPDATES
– Jake Peavy is slated to throw three simulated innings in a bullpen session on Saturday, which would put him on schedule to start on Thursday. While that schedule likely would put Peavy in position to be ready for the start of the regular season, it is worth noting that right now, he and right-hander Brandon Workman are pitching on the same scheduled days.
– Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, out for a couple of days with soreness in his ankle, will start on Saturday night in the split squad game between the Orioles and Red Sox at JetBlue Park.
– Left-hander Craig Breslow has been on a delayed schedule relative to the other Red Sox pitchers, but that was and is by design after his postseason workload. Farrell said that Breslow has been throwing long toss and will soon throw off a mound — putting him ahead of the schedule he followed last year, when he was slowed at the start of spring training by the first shoulder injury of his career.