Victorino arrives at Red Sox camp energized

962501.jpg

Victorino arrives at Red Sox camp energized

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Shane Victorino reported to Red Sox camp Thursday morning, giving the team a full complement of players ahead of Fridays first official full-squad workout.

The new right fielder joined the Sox in December, agreeing to a three-year, 39 million contract, the longest free agent deal the team gave out this offseason.

Im excited, Victorino said. An opportunity to be a Red Sox, its a storied franchise, and to be part of this organization. Last couple years have been a little rough here but at the end of the day its about 2013. Its about putting those years behind us as an organization and moving forward. A lot of new faces thats going to hopefully put the final pieces of this puzzle together and go out there and have fun.

Victorino, who turned 32 in November, is known for his high-energy personality, on the field and in the clubhouse.

What Ive always taken about my game was to give 100 percent, he said. Leave it all on the field and see what happens. Its about playing the game correctly, playing the game the right way, and thats playing the game hard.

He knows Red Sox fans have high expectations, and hes looking forward to that.

Absolutely, 100 percent, he said. Playing in a place like Philly, the fans there kind of that same fan base. But, no, definitely when you talk about a fan base, I think about the days when we played in interleague there, the seventh-inning stretch, the whole place standing up, singing 'Sweet Caroline.' Thats the kind of stuff that as a player, even as an opposing player, brought adrenaline to me. Calling Fenway home for me Im excited.

People talk about the storied franchise, talk about the history behind that ballpark, when I was there doing that introductory press conference, just started getting that adrenaline rush, started to really hit home that this is going to be called home for me the next three yearsIm excited. Im going to go out there and give 100 percent, and Im going to let the fans make the decision on falling in love or not.

That was part of the reason the Red Sox signed him, along with the other high-character players they brought in this offseason.

Im just going to be myself, he said. Im going to have fun. People always talk about culture and the presence. I think those guys that have been here, the Lesters, the Pedroias, Buchholz, those guys, I still think those are the back bone of this organization. And guys like myself, Jonny Gomes, Joel Hanrahan, David Ross, were coming in to just be a part of this team. Were not coming in here to try to change the culture.

More than anything its just adding to the pieces of the puzzle and to go out there and have fun. Most important I think thats what we need to do. Winning cures all. When you dont win people are always going to wonder and find answers of why. Theyre going to blame the clubhouse, the atmosphere. I wasnt here last year the last couple years to be a part of that. I think the backbone of this team is still here with those guys, the leaders of this team. Its about us going out there and putting it all together and have fun.

Victorino struggled last season. He was traded from Philadelphia, where he had played since 2005, to the Dodgers at the trading deadline, batting a combined .255, with a .321 on-base percentage, and .383 slugging percentage, all the lowest marks in a full season of his nine-season career. He had a lingering hand injury, but hes not using that as an excuse.

There was a lot on my plate, he said. There were things you cant control. And I try to control those kinds of things. But I put those things behind me and I tried to do the best I could and tried to fulfill and finish the season as strong as I could. People are going to try to find a reason and everybodys going to say and who knows. If I could have put my finger on it, I would have stopped it earlier. But unfortunately I didnt and I didnt have the year I wanted to. But 2013s a fresh start for me, new organization. And what better to be a Red Sox.

Victorino, who will be leaving camp by March 1 to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, has played the vast majority of his career in center field. Of his 1,002 career defensive games, hes played just 148 in right field, with 122 starts. He knows right field, especially in Fenway Park, will be a challenge. Its a challenge hes looking forward to.

I started as a right fielder and I have a great center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury thats going to be playing alongside of me, he said. A guy who was an All-Star, to me one of the greatest players in the game. Hopefully he stays healthy, and I think thats the most important part. He had some unfortunate injuries but when hes healthy, to me hes, if not one of the best center fielders in the game. I think its going to be fun playing alongside of him. I started as a right fielder so its not going to be completely new to me. But its going to be a lot of work. Definitely Fenway, right fields a little different at Fenway than most parks. But hey Im always up for an opportunity and go out there and have fun.

McAdam: Red Sox at a loss after excruciating defeat

McAdam: Red Sox at a loss after excruciating defeat

There are still two full months of games left on the schedule and who knows what might happen in that time, or what else might befall the Red Sox.

But for now, it's no stretch to suggest that Thursday's excruciating 2-1 setback in Anaheim constitutes the worst loss of the season to date. The point hardly seems debatable.

Consider:

THE TIMING: This was the start of the longest, and in many ways, most challenging road trip of the season, with 11 games in 11 days. It comes immediately after a homestand that was highly disappointing, featuring a mere split with the last-place Minnesota Twins and a sweep at the hands of the otherwise mediocre Detroit Tigers.

There's been a great deal of attention focused on how many road games the Sox have to play through the rest of the season. Winning the opener -- and snapping a three-game losing streak in the process - would have felt like a strong statement that the club was ready and able to meet the challenges of the schedule.

THE STARTING PITCHER: The loss wiped out a standout performance by David Price, who may well hold the key to whether the Red Sox grab a playoff spot this fall.

Price has been woefully inconsistent in his first season with the Red Sox, alternating between brief stretches of dominance and periods of underwhelming outings.

For a change Thursday night, Price seemed on the verge of winning one of those "statement'' games, when he would make one measly run in the third inning stand up. There have been too many times, given his standing as the team's No. 1 starter, in which Price has pitched just well enough to lose -- like the pitcher's duels in which he came up short against the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Chris Tillman.

But on Thursday, Price didn't buckle. And never mind that he was matched against an aging and depleted Jered Weaver. Price had next-to-nothing with which to work, but he protected the 1-0 lead with a determination he has seldon shown in Boston.

And for his effort to go wasted sets an inauspicious marker for this demanding trip. There was something symbolic about having Price set the tone at the start with a low-scoring, must-have game.

He did his part. Unfortunately for Price, that wasn't enough.

THE WAY IN WHICH IT HAPPENED: Walk-off losses are never pleasant, whether they come on a homer, or a base hit up the middle.

But considering that the Red Sox had the ability to turn Daniel Nava's tapper to first into a game-ending double play, and instead, saw it result in a two-run throwing error on the part of Hanley Ramirez, makes it all the more crushing.

Brad Ziegler, who gave up a go-ahead game-winning homer in the final game of the homestand Wednesday, essentially did his job in the ninth. He got Mike Trout to hit a chopper, which resulted in an infield single. And he kept the ball on the ground and in the infield, with the Sox bringing the infield in with the bases loaded and one out.

Better execution, and the Red Sox walk away with a thrilling 1-0 victory to begin their West Coast trek. Instead, they walk off the field, heads down, with the wrong precedent being set.