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Red Sox notes: A more cautious approach with Shane Victorino; why Ryan Lavarnway is up

04.25.13 at 7:16 pm ET
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Shane Victorino

When Shane Victorino suffered back spasms last Saturday that forced him to exit the game, he missed both ends of a Sunday doubleheader but by Monday appeared no worse for the condition as he returned to the Red Sox lineup. However, when he experienced a recurrence of the symptoms during his sixth-inning at-bat on Wednesday, forcing him out of another game, a need for a more conservative approach became apparent.

Thus, Victorino is out of the lineup on Thursday, and there’s a good chance that, regardless of how he’s feeling, he won’t be able to play on Friday, either.

“We won’t even consider putting him in the lineup until he’s symptom-free, and even then, it might be best -served to give him one additional day after that. We’re going to go on when he’s free and clear of the symptoms,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “He’s day to day. He’s still got some low back stiffness, and obviously held out because he’s unable to go today, but how long this takes, we’re hopefully it’s only a couple of days, but given the fact that he’s had this within a week, we’ve got to be a little more cautious this time around.”

GM Ben Cherington said that a trip to the disabled list for Victorino “hasn’t even been discussed.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

– The decision to option Alfredo Aceves after Wednesday’s Red Sox game created a free roster spot for the Sox to play with until the anticipated return of starter John Lackey from the disabled list on Sunday. With Victorino out, it might have been natural to think that the Sox would have called up an outfielder to fill in.

However, the two outfielders on Pawtucket’s 40-man roster — Jackie Bradley Jr. and Alex Hassan — weren’t considerations for a call-up. It has been fewer than 10 days since Bradley was sent down to Triple-A, and so he’s not yet eligible to be recalled unless a member of the Sox lands on the DL. Hassan, meanwhile, is on the DL in Pawtucket.

So, the Sox decided to add what Farrell described as “the best bat that was available in Pawtucket,” which was catcher Ryan Lavarnway. The 25-year-old will be available this weekend as a pinch-hitting option off the bench.

Lavarnway said that his strong start in Triple-A — a .310 average and .423 OBP — reflected on his work with Triple-A hitting coach Dave Joppie, with whom he’s been able to progress in balancing plate discipline with aggressive swings.

– With Will Middlebrooks now 5-for-54 (.093) since April 7, Farrell suggested that pitch selection was critical to a turnaround.

“We’ve got to get him back to swinging at strikes, first and foremost. That will allow that swing to play,” said Farrell. “He’s expanded the zone up. He’s expanded the zone off the plate. When he swings at strikes, he puts a very consistent swing on the pitch, but right now, he’s gone early in the count where he might not be fully confident and trusting of himself, and he’s got to break through that a little bit. We’re not trying to make him into an ultra-patient hitter, just zeroing in on a more defined strike zone.”

– Cherington discussed what the Sox had seen from Daniel Bard in Double-A Portland that positioned him for a call-up.

“The reports have been progressively better. Going back to spring training, I know we talked when we made the decision, we really did feel that he was making progress in spring training, based on how he finished the year last year. Just at the end we made a decision that there were other guys still ahead of him, but he had made progress and was going in the right direction,” said Cherington. “I’m sure there’s a level of disappointment when a talented guy like that doesn’t make the team, and he’s got to get past that the first few days. Once he got into a rhythm there, the reports from the staff and [Portland pitching coach] Bob Kipper have been progressively better. He’s more consistently doing the things he’s capable of doing — better life on the fastball, command of the breaking ball. It’s a process. He’s here, and John’s going to use him when the situation dictates. I think he’s in a good place in terms of, he knows there’s still work to do, and he’s just trying to be the best he can be now, and that’s all we can ask of him. It’s not comparing him to anything that’s happened in the past. Be the best you can be right now.”

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