What Shane Victorino's Bad Back Means and May Mean

The Red Sox biggest move of the offseason in terms of dollars committed was the signing of Shane Victorino. Coming off a disappointing 2012, his detractors described him as past his prime and at best a 4th outfielder. The Red Sox saw that Victorino's speed and defense were still there and gambled that 2012 was a blip when they signed him to a three-year deal. Early on he had repaid the club's confidence to a degree by putting up a solid 292/358/319 line. The only concern is the power production, and whether the low slugging percentage represented a continued erosion from his peak. Still, it is early enough for that to rebound. Dustin Pedroia has a sub .400 SLG at the moment as well.

While Victorino has been fighting a sore back, the Sox have hardly missed a beat thanks to the play of Daniel Nava and Mike Carp. The improvement in Nava's defense in particular has been significant. Three years ago the Sox would only have played Nava in right as a last resort. Filling in for Victorino he has done a solid job, particularly at Fenway Park with its spacious right field.

The club will decide whether or not to put Victorino on the DL in the next couple of days. His absence is problematic in that he is the only major league caliber center fielder on the active roster. For all of Nava's improvement in the field, putting him out there for more than a few innings would be asking a bit much. The only option on the 40-man roster is Jackie Bradley Jr. The club would be loathe to rob Bradley of at-bats at AAA just to be a 5th outfielder for two weeks. If Victorino can't play in the next few days the club will likely have no choice. Having Bradley ride the pine for a week or two may not be ideal, but it may be necessary.