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Don’t unpack in Pawtucket quite yet, Jackie Bradley Jr. You may be on your way back to Boston before you know it.
On Saturday, in the final game of spring training for the Boston Red Sox, right fielder Shane Victorino tweaked his hamstring rounding first base against the Minnesota Twins. The likely #2 hitter for the Red Sox will receive an MRI in Boston before Opening Day in Baltimore.
This latest injury scare from Victorino isn’t new to Red Sox fans, as hamstring and back issues limited Victorino to 122 games in 2013. They also forced the typical switch hitter to bat exclusively from the right side, causing him to get hit 18 times in the batter’s box. In fact, based on this history, it’s somewhat perplexing the Red Sox didn’t plan better for this possibility; by playing Victorino in minor league games, the Red Sox could have backdated his start date on the disabled list. That way they could have been cautious with his recovery without necessarily sacrificing two full weeks of Victorino.
Victorino did claim, “I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready to go.” But considering the Red Sox and Victorino took it slow this spring with the goal of avoiding any trips to the DL (or at least multiple trips), I wouldn’t be surprised if general manager Ben Cherington decides to take extra precautions with Victorino in order to have him healthy and able for a majority of the season (especially through the stretch run).
If Victorino did have to do a stint on the DL, it would likely mean that Bradley would end up on the major league roster alongside Grady Sizemore as Victorino’s replacement. Without Victorino, the Red Sox really have no other viable options to back up Sizemore in center (though Bradley would have likely been called up regardless of needing depth at that position).
But Bradley would likely hit ninth on days that he plays, so who would replace Victorino hitting in the two-hole? With Pedroia needed to anchor the three-spot in front of David Ortiz, I would imagine these would be manager John Farrell’s optimal starting lineups:
C David Ross
A few notes on both lineups: Against right-handers, I think Sizemore gives the Red Sox a little more speed at the top while Victorino’s out, even though Farrell has said he’s leaning toward batting Sizemore fifth or sixth. I favor Nava’s ability to get on base batting second in front of Pedroia and Big Papi. You could convince me to bat A.J. Pierzynski to bat sixth instead of Xander Bogaerts, but I like Bogaerts to get on in front of Pierzynski, who doesn’t have a high career OBP (.322; Bogaerts has a .373 OBP over his minor league career).
The Red Sox will especially miss Victorino against southpaws. Without him batting second, I like moving Pedroia, Ortiz, and Napoli up a spot while Nava and Sizemore drop down to fifth and sixth, respectively. Middlebrooks and Ross are relatively interchangeable — Ross saw slightly more pitches per plate appearance in limited playing time last year, but Middlebrooks could act as a slightly more dynamic baserunner setting up the top of the order.
Regardless, let’s hope Victorino turns out to be okay after to start (and last!) the season, and we won’t have to worry about contingency plans after all.