Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino is out of the lineup Sunday, the fourth straight game he has missed since tweaking his lower back. An MRI revealed only inflammation and manager John Farrell said he hopes to have Victorino back when the club begins a three-game series in Toronto on Tuesday.
If the veteran is unable to play by then, the club will approach a tricky time period in which it will have to make a call on Victorino’s roster spot.
“We’re hopeful that the upcoming series he will be available to us. He’s still day to day at this point,” manager John Farrell said. “We feel like, and just in talking with [general manager Ben Cherington], when you start to get into more than half of what the DL period would be then you've got to really look at making a decision on a roster, and that point being able to retroactive the injury date, so we’re still a few days away from that.”
Those few days present another obstacle, however. The turf at the Rogers Centre is not the most forgiving for those dealing with such injuries. Farrell knows this well from his time spent managing the Blue Jays. At the very least it will provide a good test for Victorino.
If that test proves to be too difficult, the Sox have taken steps to prepare for more time without the veteran speedster. Daniel Nava is playing right field again Sunday, the sixth time he has started there after doing so just twice in 2012. While Nava played plenty of right field in the minors, it’s a different beast at Fenway Park.
Farrell said that Nava’s all-around play and preparation have made it easy to slot him into Victorino’s spot.
“A very reliable guy, even at Fenway Park in this left field that can be tricky,” Farrell said. “Knowing he played a couple of games in right field last year, we wanted to get some of that exposure in spring training and here we are, because of Shane’s situation, he’s our everyday right fielder. I don’t know that he’s been tested as much as Shane has with ranging into the gap or to the line on some balls but still we have complete confidence in him in that spot.”
The organization also has given Jackie Bradley Jr. back-to-back starts in right field at Pawtucket this weekend, a move likely designed to get him used to the position in case Nava is needed elsewhere and Victorino is still sidelined. Bradley had played just one game in right field in his career in the minors prior to the recent shift.
Victorino missed two games during the Kansas City series last weekend, then aggravated the injury Wednesday against Oakland. He is hitting .292 with 12 runs scored and three stolen bases in 19 games.
In other pregame news:
* Craig Breslow threw 15 pitches in a one-inning rehab outing Saturday night, the second he has made as he works his way back from left shoulder tendinitis. Breslow and Joel Hanrahan are scheduled to pitch for the PawSox on Sunday night.
While Hanrahan is expected to be activated Tuesday, Farrell hinted that Breslow could still require more time due to the fact that he was unable to get much work in during spring training.
* For the second straight day, Farrell would not provide a specific pitch count for John Lackey’s return to the mound Sunday. A lot of it depends on the stress of the pitches, but an outing that lasts into the middle innings would satisfy the skipper.
“If John can go out and give us five innings today I think that’s a realistic goal for all of us, and I feel like he’s going to be capable of that,” Farrell said.
Lackey, who suffered a biceps strain April 6 in Toronto, threw 67 pitches in 3 2/3 innings of his only rehab outing Monday for Double-A Portland.
* Red-hot David Ortiz is in the lineup for the fifth straight game after sitting out two of the first five games following his activation from the disabled list April 20. It is nearly impossible to remove such a scorching bat from the order, but Farrell does have be careful not to overuse both Ortiz and first baseman Mike Napoli, who occasionally got rest while serving as the designated hitter when Ortiz was on the shelf.
Farrell said that Ortiz told him before the series with Houston that he felt great and was good for all four games. Napoli has had no issues with the hip condition revealed this winter. As long as both feel fine and both are hitting, Farrell can maintain the status quo.
“I guess the best way to describe it is we’ve got a good problem right now,” he said. “The way David and Mike are swinging the bat. The one thing in talking with Mike daily is the condition in which he was discovered over the winter, that has not reared its head. We have to be mindful of it.”