Sidelined Victorino provides more opportunity for Sizemore, Bradley Jr.

Shane Victorino has increased his conditioning efforts
to strengthen his core this Spring Training.
(Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe)
Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

With two games in the books, albeit against two collegiate baseball teams, the Boston Red Sox have officially put 2013 behind them. The road to defending the World Championship has begun and Grapefruit League action begins Friday as the Red Sox host the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park.

One noticeable absentee from the two lineups today was Shane Victorino. The Flyin' Hawaiian is still recovering from surgery on his right thumb, although he is in the early stages of swinging a bat via tee work and soft toss. Victorino has also been working out with the Red Sox strength and conditioning staff to strengthen his core.

Last season, Victorino battled groin problems and other nicknack injuries. With Jacoby Ellsbury playing in pinstripes, a platoon in left field between Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava, and the uncertainty of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore, the Red Sox would like Victorino as healthy as can be come Opening Day.

Many believe Bradley will man center field and has the potential to be a star for years to come. But he's still young and will go through typical growing pains while he continues to develop. The injury-prone Sizemore hasn't played a full season since 2008 and there are skeptics that he can get back to his old self when he seemed to have a bright future in Cleveland.

But the duo will have plenty of opportunities to get comfortable in their new roles with Victorino sidelined. Manager John Farrell surely would prefer one of the two to stand out in Spring Training and carry that over through the beginning portion of the season.

In the meantime, all eyes will be on Victorino and his road to recovery. Will he be the same once he returns? Will he play through injuries as he did in 2013? Will the pain affect him more if he has to deal with it all season?

Those questions will be answered soon. Knowing what we saw out of Victorino in 2013, I'd expect him to put his best foot forward regardless of his health. He leads by example and is very much like Dustin Pedroia in that regard - not much of a rah-rah guy in the clubhouse, but will show up to the field every day ready to give 110%.

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