Victorino arrives at Red Sox camp energized

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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.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.