|ESPN.com: Baseball||[Print without images]|
BOSTON -- Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino didn't want to use the word "excited" when talking about his return to the team Thursday.
However, just nine words later, the 33-year-old couldn't help but blurt it out.
"I'm just excited to be back out here with the guys," Victorino said. "I've been watching from afar, I've been cheering with my pompoms, but it's time for me to put those down, get back out there and play the game I love."
Victorino was activated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday afternoon and batted second while making his regular-season debut in the Red Sox's 14-5 loss to the New York Yankees. He had one hit in five at-bats with a run scored.
The outfielder missed the team's first 22 games while battling hamstring issues that arose on the last day of spring training and a bout with the flu that nearly kept him from being able to attend the team's ring ceremony on Opening Day at Fenway.
After three rehab games with Triple-A Pawtucket in which he went 1-for-11, Victorino felt he was finally ready to go.
"From where I'm at with my body, where I feel physically, everything is right where it needs to be and I'm going to go out there and give it my all with no hesitation and no worry," he said before Thursday's game.
Victorino's return came as welcome news for his teammates as well. He hit .294 last year with 15 home runs and 21 stolen bases. Throw in his Gold Glove defense, and it's no wonder the Red Sox are excited he's back.
"I think we missed not only on the field, but the energy that he brings that's felt in the dugout, felt in the clubhouse," manager John Farrell said. "He came in, and it was almost like Christmas morning knowing he was going to be active in the lineup."
With the team off to a 10-13 start after Thursday's loss and in last place in the division, Farrell is expecting Victorino's addition to the lineup to help stabilize his batting order and spark his team.
Last season, the Red Sox were 72-45 when he played, including 65-41 with him in right field, where Victorino won a Gold Glove with a range factor of 2.69 that was highest in the majors and a defensive WAR of 2.2 that was second in the American League to Kansas City's Lorenzo Cain (2.9).
"This is something we've been waiting for for some time here, Shane's return," Farrell said. "We feel he helps solidify our outfield defense. In addition to that, the top of the order for us. Good to have him back in the lineup, no doubt about it."
Victorino was back in right field and batting second in the lineup behind Dustin Pedroia, a combination Farrell sounded committed to keeping for a while.
"I'd like to think we'd take the current lineup and run with it for a while, to again create a little stability," Farrell said.
Victorino is remaining focused on doing his part instead of trying to carry the team.
"The weight of the team is not on my shoulders. I don't look at it like that," Victorino said. "Go out there, give it your all and whatever happens, happens."
As for the slow start, Victorino maintains there's still plenty of baseball to be played.
"To be where we are, [3½] games out of first in a tough division, that's what I look at," he said. "I don't care where we're at in the standings, it's how far we are from being at the top.
"This is a good team; it's just a matter of us going out there and doing it. We've got a long season ahead of us and we're going to have fun doing it."
ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes contributed to this report.