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Red Sox lineup at Blue Jays: Shane Victorino sits, Brock Holt in right, Xander Bogaerts returns 07.21.14 at 3:28 pm ET
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The Red Sox will open their three-game set against the Blue Jays with four rookies in the lineup. Shane Victorino, after playing back-to-back games over the weekend (and four straight overall with the conclusion of his rehab assignment), will sit out, with Brock Holt heading to right field. He’ll flank Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, while Xander Bogaerts (after sitting on Sunday) will return to the lineup at third base, and Christian Vazquez will catch John Lackey.

For a look at how Lackey has fared against the Blue Jays and how Toronto starter Drew Hutchison has done against members of the Red Sox, click here. For comprehensive Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

RED SOX LINEUP

Brock Holt, RF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Daniel Nava, LF

Stephen Drew, SS

Xander Bogaerts, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Christian Vazquez, C

John Lackey, RHP

Read More: Brock Holt, Shane Victorino, xander bogaerts,
Red Sox notes: Plan in place for Shane Victorino while Brock Holt continues to shine 07.20.14 at 1:30 pm ET
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Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt?

That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs.

The leadoff hitter has provided a vital anchor at the top of the batting order as the Red Sox searched desperately for a consistent leadoff hitter. He comes into Sunday hitting .325 with a .369 OBP and a .826 OPS. Holt has started all 63 games this season, batting leadoff in 52 of them. As the leadoff hitter, his number are nearly identical to his overall numbers, .326/.364/.825.

Of course, he’s been incredibly versatile in the field, playing seven of the nine positions while earning the name “Superman” from some Red Sox fans. The only two positions he hasn’t tried yet are pitcher and catcher. On Sunday, he’s starting at third as the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts the day off against hard-throwing righty Yordano Ventura.

“With Brock Holt moving around the field and going up against a right-hander in Ventura, we just wanted to get another left-handed bat in there,” skipper John Farrell said.

“We’re probably at the point in the year where it’s less of a concern than when he was playing right field for the first, or left field for the first time, or first base for the first time. There have been a lot of firsts this year. And the way he’s handled each position defensively, now we’re finding ways to keep his bat in the lineup and not reluctant to change the position by the day.”

What’s truly remarkable is that, as late as early April, Holt wasn’t even considered an option as a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury.

“He wasn’t in the conversation, either in the offseason or as we got through camp but to the level in which he’s hit at and performed at, and the consistency against left-handers and right-handers, it’s been invaluable, the continuity he’s created at the top of the lineup,” Farrell said.

The left-handed hitting Holt is actually hitting 20 points higher against lefties (.336) than righties (.316), a testament to his ability to hang in against southpaws.

“I think when you see a guy be able to use the whole the field as much as he does and how he you see him handle left-handers, he can track the ball so deep into the zone that he doesn’t overcommit early to breaking balls from left-handers that run away from him,” Farrell said. “And because it is a compact swing, his pitch recognition can be a little better than others because he doesn’t have to start the swing early in the flight of the pitch to home plate.

“I think it’s [just] a trait of really good hitters, regardless of the spot in the lineup. The more compact, the less you may get fooled on certain type of pitches. They’re more difficult to pitch against because he has the ability to take a really good pitcher’s pitch and fight it off and foul it off as he gets deeper into some counts and I think it’s a direct reflection of why you see him hit at the average he is at currently and what he’s done throughout his minor league career.”

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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Brock Holt, Dustin Pedroia, kansas city royals
Shane Victorino shakes off ‘savior’ notion in his return to Red Sox 07.19.14 at 9:39 pm ET
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Victorino addresses the media in the Red Sox dugout before Saturday night's game.  (Conor Ryan/WEEI.com)

Victorino addresses the media in the Red Sox dugout before Saturday night’s game against the Royals. (Conor Ryan/WEEI.com)

Shane Victorino‘€™s message to the media prior to Saturday night’€™s game against Kansas City was both simple and direct:

He is not going to be the savior for this team.

However, he can certainly play a big part in a second-half turnaround for the Red Sox.

“I’€™m not the guy, I’€™m not the answer,” Victorino said. “€œI’€™m not the guy that’€™s going to carry the load, but I’€™m going to try to be as good as I can be and help this team win.”

The 33-year-old outfielder was called back up to Boston Saturday after being sidelined since May 24 with a hamstring injury. Victorino — who hit .242 with one home run and 10 RBIs in just 21 games with the Red Sox this season –€“ had a long and frustrating road back to the big leagues, suffering multiple setbacks with both his hamstring and his back injury while rehabbing in Pawtucket.

After being on the shelf for almost two months, Victorino acknowledged that he was excited to finally be back out patrolling the Fenway outfield going forward.

“œIt’€™s what it’€™s all about,” Victorino said. “You work hard, you try to do what you got to do to get back as quick as you can. Unfortunately, there were some setbacks, but I’€™m here, I’€™m at this point where I worked hard to get back to where I’€™m at. As I said, I’€™m just going to continue to work hard and try to be the best player I can be and go out there and do what I can to help make this team better.”

Victorino played six games with Triple-A Pawtucket over an almost month-long stretch following his hamstring injury. The ailing outfielder was shut down from June 24 through Wednesday due to multiple hindrances to his rehab, but after playing a total of 16 innings over Wednesday and Thursday’€™s games with the PawSox and showing no physical limitations, Victorino was ready for the call back up to Boston.

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Read More: John Farrell, Pawtucket, Red Sox, Shane Victorino
Red Sox cautiously optimistic Shane Victorino ready for activation on Saturday at 8:17 am ET
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Shane Victorino may be activated on Saturday. (AP)

Shane Victorino may be activated on Saturday. (AP)

According to a team source, the Red Sox are cautiously optimistic that right fielder Shane Victorino will be ready for activation on Saturday against the Royals. Manager John Farrell told reporters on Friday night that Victorino would be examined at Fenway Park on Saturday to verify that he’s ready to return from the D.L.

Victorino went 1-for-4 with a double while playing seven innings in his second of back-to-back games with Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday, and he was 3-for-8 over the two games (with all three hits coming against right-handed pitchers). The 33-year-old has played in just 21 games this year, spending the majority of the year on the sidelines in two separated disabled list stints for hamstring strains, the second of which was complicated by back discomfort. Victorino is hitting .242 with a .276 OBP and .352 slugging mark, and given the fitful nature of his season, the Sox have rarely benefited from the dynamic player who impacted the game in numerous ways last year.

“We’ve missed his energy. We’ve missed his talents, his in-game decision, his instincts on the basepaths — we’ve missed a very good player for the majority of the year,” said Farrell, who added that it wouldn’t be a surprise if Victorino requires some time of readjustment at the major league level before he achieves familiar levels of production given the amount of time that he’s missed.

If Victorino is activated, the Red Sox, according to an industry source, are expected to create a roster spot by optioning Mookie Betts back to Triple-A. Though hitting just .235 with a .278 OBP and .382 slugging mark, Betts has shown flashes of a far-reaching skill set. Yet he’s played in just 10 games in the three weeks since his promotion from Triple-A, and concerns about both the need for his playing time and a desire for Betts to gain further comfort in the outfield (where his routes are, unsurprisingly, a work in progress given that he has spent less than two months in the outfield as a pro) point to the merits of sending Betts back down.

Read More: mookie betts, Shane Victorino,
Red Sox pregame notes: Shane Victorino could be activated tomorrow; Will Middlebrooks nears return; Sox remain hopeful for second-half run 07.18.14 at 7:08 pm ET
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Shane Victorino could be activated for Saturday's game against Kansas City. (AP)

Shane Victorino could be activated for Saturday’s game against Kansas City. (AP)

While the Red Sox only managed to post a 9-12 record in the 21 games that he played this season in the majors, there’€™s no denying that Shane Victorino brings a certain amount of panache to the table that the Red Sox have sufficiently lacked this year.

Whether it be his proficiency in patrolling right field (25.0 UZR in 2013, first amongst all right fields in AL ), talent at the plate (.294/.351/.451 line last season) or skills on the basepaths (23-for-26 in stolen base attempts with Boston), Victorino has certainly left a void on the roster during the 74 games that he’€™s missed this season with hamstring and back issues.

“€œWe’€™ve missed his energy, we’€™ve missed his talents, his in-game decision, his instincts on the basepaths, we’€™ve missed a very good player for a majority of the year,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell before Friday’€™s game against the Royals.

However, it appears that the 33-year-old outfielder will not be sidelined for much longer, as Farrell stated that there’€™s a definite scenario that he could be activated before Saturday’€™s game. Victorino played all nine innings of Triple-A Pawtucket’€™s game against Buffalo Thursday, going 2-for-4 while showing no hesitancy to test his hamstring both out on the field and on the basepaths.

“He came out of last night in good shape physically, he ran the bases aggressively, went first to third a couple of different times, slid headfirst, a couple of base hits, made three plays in right field, so last night was a very good night for him and we anticipate him getting through tonight in a similar fashion physically and there’€™s a scenario which has him active for us tomorrow,” Farrell said.

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Read More: David Ross, John Farrell, Shane Victorino, Will Middlebrooks
John Farrell knows do-or-die time is upon his Red Sox: ‘Each [game] has increasing signficance’ 07.17.14 at 9:32 pm ET
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John Farrell can read the standings just like everyone else. He knows his team stands 43-52 heading into the final 67 games, 9 1/2 games behind first-place Baltimore in the AL East. He can also read a schedule. He knows full well that after this three-game series this weekend with Kansas City, the Red Sox have 13 straight games against three of the four teams ahead of them in the division.

It’s do-or-die time.

“Given where we are right now, yes,” Farrell said, confirming the characterization of this as the make-or-break part of the season. “That’s not to add pressure. That’s to say there’s some additional significance when you play the teams ahead of you. After we get through Kansas City, we’ve got the next 13 [games] or four consecutive series of teams ahead of us. Sixty-seven games remaining, each one has increasing significance as we go.”

After three with the Royals, the Red Sox have four in Toronto, followed by three on the road against the Rays. They come home for three against the Jays and three against the Yankees, overlapping the July 31 trade deadline. Did Farrell feel like he got a break to mentally prepare for the upcoming grind?

“Yeah for about a day-and-a-half, and now I’m ready to get going for [Friday],” Farrell said of his shortened All-Star break due to managing the AL All-Stars to a 5-3 win in Minneapolis.

“I think the four days gives guys a chance to mentally and physically take a break and get away from the game a little bit. [Xander Bogaerts] has been going at it pretty hard, not only in terms of what he’s been working on pregame but with every focus to be brought into the game, and he’s played regularly as well. We’ve given him a couple of days here and there, but I think the break mentally and physically was needed for him, and quite frankly, for a number of guys.”

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Read More: anthony ranaudo, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, John Farrell
Shane Victorino: Traffic caused rehab schedule adjustment 07.13.14 at 9:29 pm ET
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When Shane Victorino‘s rehab assignment for the Portland Sea Dogs on Saturday was scratched, it seemed reasonable to assume that the outfielder may have suffered another setback, considering how his recent attempts to rehabilitate his injuries have been cut short due to discomfort.

That, however, was not the case. Victorino said that the reason he was scratched on Saturday had to do with the fact that he was stuck in traffic on his car ride from Boston to Portland.

“Yesterday was one of those things where the drive took me almost 2 1/2 hours to get an hour and a half still away,” Victorino said. “It was supposed to be a two-hour drive and it was going to turn into a three-hour-plus drive. They said that being in the car that long and then trying to play in the game was probably not the smartest decision. That was the only thing. I left as early as I could thinking that it wasn’t going to be that bad, but that was my first time ever trying to go down to Portland, Maine, and I understood with all of the beauty of the beaches and the coastline and the beauty of the weekend, it wasn’t the smartest choice.”

According to Victorino, he drove about as far as Salisbury, Massachusetts, before he called Red Sox physical therapist Dan Dyrek regarding his issues with traffic.

Victorino said that the scratch had nothing to do with any physical issues.

“That was the thing that happened yesterday,” Victorino said. “It wasn’t anything due to pulling me back from playing. The thing about at-bats is that’s the part that I’ve still got to get adjusted to. We’ll figure it out. I’m a professional hitter and I should figure it out sooner rather than later so I can’t sit here and worry about trying to get more at-bats. I’ve got to get ready to be physically ready to go and continuously play. Everything is going according to plan.” Read the rest of this entry »

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