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Shane Victorino: ‘I’ll play center if I have to’

02.18.14 at 10:09 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The 2013 world championship ride with the Red Sox taught Shane Victorino a lot.

Mostly, the veteran outfielder learned that he was surrounded by a lot of people that would do whatever it takes to get the job done.

He’s trying to take that attitude into 2014.

Asked Tuesday about his concerns with Jacoby Ellsbury now playing center field for the rival Yankees, Victorino said he’s not concerned because he feels Jackie Bradley, Jr., newcomer Grady Sizemore or even he could fill the void.

“I”m excited wherever,” Victorino said. “I’ll play center if I have to. Worst case scenario we go out there with what we have and have fun doing it.”

Victorino, at first wouldn’t even mention Ellsbury or the Yankees by name when talking about some of the losses from the roster of a year ago, including Stephen Drew (for now) and Ryan Dempster.

[Click here to listen to Shane Victorino from Tuesday inside the Red Sox clubhouse.]

“We did lose two key pieces,” he said. “Obviously, one is somewhere else. The second guy I’m talking about is Stephen. I think three guys, actually, in having Dempster step away from the game. You’re going to miss that guy, regards to what he brought in the clubhouse, what he brought as a teammate. But that’s all part of the game. It’s a business. You’re putting the puzzle together, you put the pieces we’ve gotten and you go out there and have fun doing it.

“Most importantly, those guys that are going to get that opportunity, Xander, if he plays every day at short. Will, he’s been there before. You look at those kind of things. Jackie Bradley, Jr. in center field, and Grady. All of those guys have had the opportunity to play at the highest level and get an opportunity to play every day.”

Victorino pointed out that he’s been through this type of transition before. Jayson Werth left the Phillies after the 2010 season, signing with the Nationals.

“I’ve been there before,” he said. “I lost Jayson Werth when I played alongside and he was a big key to our puzzle when we did well in Philly. Losing Jacoby is a big piece of the puzzle but for us, as players, we understand it’s part of the game. We don’t look at it anymore than that. I think it was made [a lot] of because he went to that other side. If he had signed anywhere else, it probably wouldn’t have been so drastic. At the end of the day, guys are going to get their opportunity, wherever it may be between Jackie and Grady.”

Something else Victorino has been through before is being on a team trying to repeat as World Series champion. His Phillies came within two games in 2009, losing to the Yankees in Game 6 after winning it all in 2008.

“It’s not that hard,” Victorino said when asked about the mindset heading into 2014. “I’ve been there before. A lot of us have been there before. I’ve won a championship. I think we all have an understanding of what it’s all about. Talk is always going to be about being the World Series champion but as I said, you prepare for ’14 and get ready for this season and you focus on that.

“More importantly, it’s great to be known as World Series champion but this is a whole new year. The target is on your back. Everybody is going to come after you, everybody is going to want to take that trophy from you. So, we focus on what we have to do and take one game at a time.”

As for his thumb, on which he had surgery in December, Victorino said the healing process is just about complete.

“Good. Good as offseasons can be,” he said. “You enjoy every moment. Now we’re here. This offseason was great in regards to the healing process, getting back to feeling somewhat good and ultimately getting ready for 2014.

“It’s part of the game. It’s what you play for. At that point of the year, late in the season, everybody is hurting from playing a lot of games. You focus on trying to win, more importantly. I feel good. I’m here in spring training, ready to go.”

Victorino said he has taken some “dry hacks” but has yet to strike a ball with force in the cage.

When he does return to hitting, where he bats in John Farrell‘s batting order is sure to be a subject of conversation and debate.

“I never say where I want to be,” Victorino said of the batting order. “I don’t care where I hit. I said it all along. Whatever opportunity presents itself, whether it be leadoff, whether it be down in the lineup, wherever. I’m not really focused on all that. I think it’s more about getting myself prepared and wherever I’m put in the batting order, I’ll be ready to go.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees, Red Sox
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