PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Ask Shane Victorino to describe his season so far, and there is one word -- and its various forms -- that will continuously come into the conversation: ‘frustrating.’ He knows this is the same word most Red Sox fans will use to describe his season and the team’s, as well.
“Frustrating, to say the least,” he said. “And also watching what’s going on you feel just as guilty, if not guiltier, that you’re not out there.”
Limited by injuries and two stints on the disabled list, he has appeared in just 21 games this season. If he were to continue at this rate, he would be on pace to appear in just 45 games, the fewest since 2005 -- the season after his made his big league debut – the season in which he was named the International League MVP while with the Phillies.
But Victorino is optimistic that he is putting his injuries behind him.
First he has to get through nine innings. And that is the goal for Tuesday night with Triple-A Pawtucket against the Orioles’ Norfolk Tides.
“Yeah, that’s the goal,” he said before the game. “That’s where my mind is set right now. Other than this little setback that we had, things were going accordingly. My back feels good, the knee feels good, my hamstring feels good.”
Victorino, who missed 22 games at the beginning of the season after straining his right hamstring in the final spring training game, has been on the DL since May 24 with the same injury. He began his rehab assignment June 14 with the PawSox. But on June 17 at Rochester he tweaked his back running the bases, the setback he mentioned.
“It was weird,” he said. “I felt some clicking before the game. I thought that was just some movement in my back, it was loosening up. Will [Middlebrooks] hit a ball to deep right. I went back to second, took off for third, and I locked up.
“I thought it was just something where I might have got stiff. But the next few days were awful.”
He left the team and flew back to Boston for treatment.
“Dan [Dyrek, Sox director of sports medicine service] did his miracle work again,” Victorino said. “And I was ready. So that’s the part I got to give a little credit to our training staff, too, to deal with all that I’ve had the last couple of years and give them a lot of credit for trying to get me back out on the field.”
Victorino got back on the field Monday, playing five innings in right field for Low-A Lowell, going 0-for-3.
“Felt great, to be back out there,” he said. “Everything was going accordingly, everything else that we were working through, and this thing came out of nowhere. Obviously set us back a couple days but, we got to keep going.
On Tuesday he is looking to play a full nine innings for the first time in his rehab assignment.
“And they want me to play back to back days, because they don’t want to take me out in the seventh [when he is activated]. So that’s the part is I think understanding that, but if we can get that under our belts tonight, play nine, and we’ll go from there.”
He’s dealt with injuries before, including last season, when he hit .294/.351/.451 in 122 games for the Sox dealing with back and hamstring ailments. He underwent nerve release surgery on his right thumb in December. There’s one thing he doesn’t want to be known as: High maintenance.
“That’s the last thing I want to be known as,” he said. “And that’s the part, I’ve never been like that. And that’s why I say it’s frustrating, because there’s not an answer. Prior years have I gone on the DL? Yes, but two weeks and I’m back. It’s never been like linger, linger, linger. In fact, my wife said the other day ‘Dude, how long has it been?’ I said, ‘Hon, it’s been almost a month.’ She said yeah I thought these two weeks were long. So when your own significant other says that to you, she’s not accustomed to this.”
Victorino had said -- optimistically -- early in the conversation he wanted to get on a plane to Seattle and join the Sox for the last game of this West Coast swing, but knew that might not be the wisest move.
“I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” he said. [That would be] trying to push too much. From a medical standpoint I think they’re a little [uncertain about] flying all the way out there and then flying back. We’ll see. We’ll evaluate at the end of [Tuesday’s] the game. Let me get through nine innings first, or however many we go through today and see how we feel.
“But the positive thing is we had this little setback but everything is coming along in regards to how my body is. I’ve run as bad as I could on the bases before I had this little back issue. And playing yesterday no recurrence of pain, no soreness the next day. So I see it as a positive.”