- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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BALTIMORE -- The Boston Red Sox, who had made it through spring training all but unscathed physically until Shane Victorino strained his right hamstring in the last exhibition Saturday, are facing the real possibility of opening the regular season Monday without their Gold Glove-winning right fielder.
Victorino flew with the team to Baltimore Saturday night, then continued on to Boston Sunday afternoon for an MRI. A full workup and exam will follow on Monday morning, leaving Victorino time to rejoin the club before Monday's 3 p.m. start against the Baltimore Orioles, according to manager John Farrell. But given the conservative approach the team's medical staff typically has taken with such injuries, it would appear highly unlikely that Victorino will be green-lighted to play.
What remains to be seen is whether the MRI shows that the injury warrants Victorino being placed on the disabled list. Victorino was on the 25-man roster submitted by the Red Sox to the commissioner's office before Sunday's 3 p.m. deadline, but Farrell said he already has given some thought to what the Red Sox will do if Victorino is unavailable, on Monday and the immediate future.
The injury occurred despite the Red Sox going to considerable lengths this spring to prepare Victorino in such a way as to avoid the hamstring, back and groin issues that limited him to 117 starts last season. He played in just nine exhibitions this spring, the Sox electing to delay his game activity while he stayed on the team's back fields working on conditioning and supervised baseball activity. Victorino said he felt the hamstring grab as he was rounding first following his third-inning double at Jet Blue Park against the Twins.
"I don't know if we look at it as troubling,'' Farrell said Sunday at a media session at Baltimore's Camden Yards, where the team's optional workout had to be conducted inside because of rain. "You look at it as a situation that has to be managed.
"Even coming into this year, if we weren't in the situation we are in now, if he was healthy, we figured there would be games or there would be days he would need a breather, much like other players, and then you respond to what's thrown your way. Right now we're questionable [whether] Shane's going to be available tomorrow or for the coming days.''
Victorino, in the second year of a three-year, $39 million contract, proved one of the Red Sox's most valuable performers in 2013 after a disappointing 2012 season in which the Phillies traded him to the Dodgers at midseason and the Dodgers subsequently dealt for outfielder Carl Crawford, signaling to Victorino that his days in L.A. were numbered.
Victorino responded with a .294/.351/.451/.802 slash line in 122 games, batted .429 in the AL Division Series against the Rays, and hit a grand slam that was decisive in Boston's Game 6, ALCS-clinching victory over the Tigers. He started fast for the Sox last season, with two hits and three RBIs in an 8-2 Opening Day win over the Yankees in New York, and had eight hits in the team's first four games.
"You've got to remain aware that you might have to change on the fly,'' Farrell said about Victorino possibly missing time, "but when he's on the field, you've seen we're talking about a Gold Glove outfielder in right field. Whatever the number of games played, that'll play itself out. If he's not available to us, we'll certainly miss him.''
Victorino also was expected to play in center field occasionally to give time off to Grady Sizemore, who is not scheduled to play more than three games consecutively at the outset of the season. But now that Victorino is dealing with his own issues, that probably increases the likelihood of Daniel Nava being used in center. If Victorino does go to the DL, it also means the likely return of Jackie Bradley Jr., who was beaten out of the starting center field job in camp by Sizemore. Bradley was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday.
Victorino, 33, has dealt with core issues throughout his career. He went on the DL last May with a strained left hamstring, and missed seven games last April with a lower back strain. Both the hamstring and back remained issues throughout the season, but were managed sufficiently to keep Victorino on the field, even though he eventually abandoned switch-hitting and batted right-handed almost exclusively the last two months of the season. He turned even that into a positive, posting a .300/.386/.510/.896 slash line while being hit by a pitch 11 times in 115 plate appearances batting right-handed against a right-handed pitcher.
He also appeared on the DL twice in 2011 (right hamstring, thumb) and in 2010 (oblique strain) 2008 (right calf) and 2007 (left calf). Last December, he had surgery to release a nerve in his right thumb.