Saturday, May 18, 2013
Victorino planning on Sunday return
By Ben Goessling, Special to ESPNBoston.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Red Sox fielded an unorthodox lineup for the second straight day at Target Field on Saturday, and Shane Victorino's back wasn't the only one manager John Farrell had to worry about.
Shortstop Stephen Drew also was out of Farrell's lineup on Saturday because of back troubles, leading Farrell to start Pedro Ciriaco against left-hander Scott Diamond and the Minnesota Twins.
Victorino, who injured his back running into the right-field wall against Tampa Bay on Thursday, said he is planning to return on Sunday, and Farrell said he hopes Drew also will return for the series finale against the Twins. The absence of the two players, though, complicated things for Farrell on a night when he already was trying to solve a tough platoon split.
The Red Sox, who are hitting .239 against left-handers this season, were preparing to face Twins lefty Scott Diamond, who was the team's best pitcher in 2012.
The switch-hitting Victorino, who has a .298 career average against lefties, might have especially helped the Red Sox against Diamond. Boston will face another left-hander, Pedro Hernandez, on Sunday.
One thing in the Red Sox's favor is the recent production of outfielder Jonny Gomes, whose ability to pound left-handed pitching has been a major reason why he's played 11 seasons in the majors. Gomes hit second in the order, playing left field.
Gomes has an .887 career OPS against lefties, as opposed to a .729 mark against righties, and while he's only got one hit in a four-game stretch in which he's started every day, he drew a pair of walks and drove in the winning run in a 10-inning victory over the Twins on Friday night.
"He's had good at-bats against right-handers (too)," Farrell said. "He had a base hit against Jamey Wright in Tampa, he's taken some walks, he's laid off some breaking balls that are either on the edge or off the plate. Jonny's track record kind of shows that early in the season, it takes him a while to get going. He's getting more regular at-bats, and on this trip, he's going to have a number of at-bats and games played consecutively. We could sure use what he's capable of."
If the right-handed Gomes could give the Red Sox a boost, they were still looking for one from leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, who drove in a run on Friday night but finished 1-for-5, continuing a month-long funk that has him hitting .169. Farrell had planned on giving Ellsbury the night off if Victorino had been available.
Ellsbury is hitting just .247 this season, amid speculation that his impending free agency might be causing him to put too much pressure on himself, and Farrell said on Saturday he is still looking to see consistency return to Ellsbury's approach at the plate.
"There's times where he'll show good patience. He'll work deep into a count," Farrell said. "And in the next at-bat, maybe he'll look a bit over-aggressive, trying to make something happen. It comes down to timing because we've seen him where he's squared up some balls, he gets on base and he'll create some havoc.
"But the consistency he's made himself known for is a little elusive right now. He's a key part for this ballclub. We need him, and we need to work with him to get him going. That's ongoing, every day, but his consistency has a huge effect on who we are offensively."