Red Sox OF Shane Victorino gave up switch-hitting down the stretch last season due to hamstring, hip, and back injuries. In fact, he has even said himself that recent injuries have plagued him when batting from the left side. Is he now considering giving up switch-hitting all together to focus on the right side of the plate? Nothing is set in stone quite yet, but this would only be a positive move for both the Red Sox and Victorino.
Victorino is a natural right-handed batter and took up switch-hitting in 2003 in the Los Angeles Dodger’s minor league organization. He has always been better from the right side of the plate in his career, as he owns a .303/.373/.506 line with 46 home runs and 154 RBI as a right-handed batter against left-handed pitching. However, the 33-year-old has had his issues against right-handed pitching as a right-hander, though those numbers did see improvement in the 2013 season.
Although a small sample, Victorino hit .300/.386/.510 with six home runs in 115 plate appearances last season. That would be the major hurdle to climb for Victorino, but the sample shows he is trending in the right direction.
Manager John Farrell had this to say to the Boston Globe on Saturday:
“The right side has always been his strong side,” Farrell said. “I think last year his production against right-handed pitching probably has enabled him to be a little bit more open-minded to getting the majority of at-bats from that side of the plate.”
With Jacoby Ellsbury‘s departure to the New York Yankees in the off-season the Red Sox also need to decide on who their next lead-off man will be . OF Daniel Nava has been mentioned, but he is also a switch-hitter. Victorino would be a more attractive option if he decides to hit exclusively from the right side based on match-ups.
For now, we won’t be able to find out until Victorino even begins playing spring training games. Victorino is taking it slow to work his way back from thumb surgery in the off-season. He had this to say to Boston.com:
“We’ve discussed it,” Victorino said, of the possibility of hitting only right-handed. “Farrell said that it depends on how I feel and that’s right. I haven’t even played yet.”
Victorino still considers himself a switch-hitter, though.
“I took five swings right-handed and left-handed [in batting practice] the other day, so yes, I’m still a switch-hitter,” Victorino said.
In the end, batting right-handed exclusively could be the best option for Victorino. His recent injury troubles have caused him to bat right-handed in the past anyway, and he proved in his at-bats last season that he can handle right-handed pitching. The move would also improve the Red Sox since it could give them the solid lead-off man that they are in the process of searching for. For his career, Victorino also owns the aforementioned .303 batting average batting right-handed, 36 points higher than as a left-handed batter (.267).
It’s all speculation right now, but the move could ultimately prove to be a positive one for the Red Sox and Victorino if he decides to move in this direction.
“We want the most productive player,” Farrell said. “If that’s what it lends to, we’d be perfectly fine with it if that’s what he opts to do.”
Farrell hopes to get Victorino into the lineup for the first time early next week.