BOSTON Saying he is ecstatic, Shane Victorino was introduced Thursday afternoon at Fenway Park as the newest member of the Red Sox.
Victorino joined the Sox as a free agent, signing a three-year, 39 million contract. A switch-hitter, Victorino has hit .275, with a .341 on-base percentage, and a .430 slugging percentage in 1,076 games over his nine-season career. He is expected to play right field, where he has appeared in just 148 of his 1,002 defensive games over his career, with Jacoby Ellsbury in center and Jonny Gomes in left.
Calling this home for the next three years, I'm ecstatic, said Victorino, who will wear No. 18. Looking forward to an opportunity to go out there and play right field, or wherever manager John Farrell wants me to play, Im more than ecstatic.
Shane fits perfectly into our short- and longer-term plan, said general manager Ben Cherington. Hes been a big part of great teams. Hes a guy that can do a lot of things on the baseball field. A great defender, a great baserunner, hitter from both sides of the plate, and one of the highest-energy players in the game.
For Victorino, who turned 32 on Nov. 30, this is his first time playing with an American League team. He was a sixth-round pick of the Dodgers in 1999, but was taken by the Padres in the 2002 Rule 5 draft, making his big league debut with San Diego in 2003. He was returned to the Dodgers in May 2003, though. In 2004, he was again taken in the Rule 5 draft, by Philadelphia, where he played until being traded to the Dodgers at the trading deadline in July.
Factoring into the Sox decision to pursue Victorino as a free agent is the on-going endeavor to improve the clubhouse culture, going after high-character players, along with his on-field abilities, Cherington said.
Were always looking at the body of work and the longer track record, said Cherington. I think Shane would say there were some times last year he didnt feel quite the way he wanted to. But what we wanted to do this offseason, as you guys know, is not just add to the outfield but add to the outfield with a guy whos a centerfield-quality defender. And if we can do that with a guy who can also hit and run the bases and add the energy that Shane does, we just felt like it was a really good fit for a lot of good reasons. We know the kind of player hes been over a period of time. Hes still young. Hes still in his prime age years. Looking forward to seeing him out here. And hes a big part of what were trying to do.
Despite the Sox disastrous 2012 season and problems in the clubhouse, Victorino said he needed no convincing to join the team.
"There is no convincing, he said. It's Boston. That in itself says it all. It's the Red Sox.Its a storied franchise. I think still, to me, if you look around the game of baseball, theres one rivalry that you speak of and thats the Yankees and Red Sox.
I look at the guys, the chemistry on this team... I look at the makeup of the team, the guys. This is one of those things we can turn around. And that's the goal. We don't want to be known as the team that didn't make the playoffs. I want to be a team that makes the playoffs.I fell short last year and it wasnt fun to be home in October.
The reason I chose the Red Sox over other organizations, the tradition, the history, the makeup of the team. The last couple years has been definitely tough for the Boston organization. But at the end of the day we look beyond that now. We need to look forward to 2013 and being that organization that we can be. The game of baseball is the game of baseball. It happens sometimes like that and you can't put a finger on it."
In addition to a new team and a new league, Victorino will be making some adjustments in his defensive position. He has played the vast majority of his defensive games 762 in center field. He played just one game in right field in 2012, with the Dodgers, where he also played 48 games in left and eight in center.
I did the same thing when I went to LA," Victorino said of changing positions. People talked about how I should be the center fielder going there. But I always look at it as, 'Im going to help this team win'. I came in as a right fielder ...If you speak to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, you can ask him. He thinks I was the best right fielder that ever played.
Don't get me wrong, I love center field. I want to be a center fielder. But Ive played right. I'm excited for the opportunity to just go out there and have fun. I still might wrap myself around that pole. But if Ive got to go get a ball, Im going to go get it.
Fenways expansive right field will present a challenge for Victorino.
Its a big right field. But Im always up to the challenge, he said. Im going to work hard in spring training to get that opportunity. Im going to get that opportunity in spring training to work with Jacoby in center field, and playing with two center fielders I can trust his legs. Playing in our home ballpark you dont have to worry about a left fielder too much with that wall out there. We can both kind of shift over.
Ive already spoken with Ellsbury. Were very excited to play alongside each other.
Playing in Boston should be less of an adjustment for him, having played in large markets with high expectations.
I hope it is not worse than Philly, he said, with a laugh. That was a pretty tough marketI learned through that experience too, what its like to be in a market where youre not that team, that number one teamIm going to try and stay positive. I think thats important. But its the fans. Its the tradition thats in this place, the Green Monster, Fenway, all these things.