FORT MYERS, Fla. — When Team USA manager Joe Torre was putting together a roster of players for the World Baseball Classic, he called each candidate to gauge how committed he was to the idea.
His conversation with Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino was a brief one.
Victorino played for the United States in the 2009 Classic, and in 2005 in an Olympic qualifying tournament. He considers it a great honor to represent his country.
“I ran into Shane at Dodger Stadium last year and he told me he was interested in playing,” Torre said Friday. “It made sense to me because of all he brings to the table. He switch-hits, he can run, and he can play all three outfield positions.
“But the biggest thing for me is that he’s a winning player and he was going to show up with that desire. He has a lot of pride in what he does. That matters to me.”
Victorino started in right field for the Red Sox against the Pirates on Friday night and is expected to play on Saturday before leaving for Arizona to join Team USA, which will play two exhibition games against major league teams before facing Mexico next Friday at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Red Sox teammate Alfredo Aceves is on Mexico’s roster, along with nonroster righthander Oscar Villarreal.
“I’m thrilled. I like everything about it,” Victorino said. “I played in ’09 and it was an interesting experience, seeing how other countries play. It’s also great to play with guys from other teams you usually only see from across the field. You can learn a lot.”
Victorino was the starting center fielder for the United States in 2009 and played well, hitting .316 in eight games for a team that finished a disappointing fourth. Now 32, he’s the fourth outfielder on a roster that includes All-Stars Adam Jones, Ryan Braun, and Giancarlo Stanton.
“I like the way the team was put together,” Victorino said. “The first few times around, it was like a Hall of Fame roster. This time there’s not as many stars, not to take away anything from guys like myself. I just feel like they put together a real team, one that can go out and win. There’s some excitement about it.”
Many standout players passed on the WBC, believing their time was better spent preparing for the major league season. So Torre looked for versatile, second-tier players who could fill roles and play a particular style.
“I want us to be aggressive,” he said. “A player like Shane is going to help in that regard. We tried to find a good balance. This is still spring training for these players, but we want to win. There’s a competitive element to this certainly.”
Victorino is looking forward to playing for Torre, the former Yankees manager who is now Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball operations.
“I just know him from across the field. But it’s going to be something very interesting,” Victorino said. “He managed so many great teams with the Yankees and everybody knows what he did and what he means to the game. He wants us to go out there with pride and there’s a lot on his shoulders. He feels like it’s his time to take this team and do something special.
“I feel great to be part of it again.”
Victorino’s only concern about joining Team USA again was the fact that this would be his first spring training with the Red Sox. He didn’t want to take time away from learning his new team and getting settled in right field.
“There was definitely hesitation for me, in more ways than one,” Victorino said. “But I looked at the schedule and we had basically 2½ weeks before [the WBC] and probably 11 days after. It will work out fine.
“Ultimately, the decision was that I was wanted to wear the USA uniform again. This could be my last chance.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell is mainly concerned with getting Victorino enough playing time in right field so he becomes comfortable with center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
“We may have to simulate some situations, the balls in between them,” Farrell said. “But we’ll have the remaining games to get a read on that.”
Victorino is looking forward to playing for Team USA again, if only so that his son, Kingston, can participate in the experience.
“For my little guy to watch me play will be special. He’s only 2, but he knows that Daddy plays baseball,” Victorino said. “To share that with him, it’s very important. I couldn’t pass on it.”