Shane Victorino has had a rough season. The Red Sox placed him on the disabled list on Opening Day due to a nagging hamstring injury and he did not return until the end of the month of April. He played 21 games, slashing a mediocre .242/..276/.352, before he was DL-bound once more with that faulty hamstring once again the culprit. Victorino has not played since May 17, and the Red Sox have even toyed with shutting him down for the year; however, he is on the right track and is currently on a rehab assignment with the Low-A Lowell Spinners.
In fact, Victorino’s health has progressed to the point where he is on track to start the second half back in Boston as the Red Sox take on the Kansas City Royals this Friday. If Victorino continues to improve both with his health and with his play, he should be back with the Red Sox within the week.
However, it’s worth wondering whether or not that is right for the team at this stage in the season.
The Red Sox have all but given up on the 2014 season and have begun a youth movement in Beantown. One of the focal areas of that youth movement has been the outfield as rookies Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Brock Holt have all seen regular playing time in the outfield, leaving no obvious position for Victorino. However, it wouldn’t be easy for the Red Sox to simply bench the personable star who hit .294/.351/.451 with 15 home runs and 21 stolen bases just a year ago.
Activating Victorino would cause a major roster crunch for the Red Sox as the team would have to demote one of Daniel Nava, Mookie Betts, or Jackie Bradley Jr.– all of whom have been hitting better of late. It’s also possible that the Red Sox could explore a trade of either Jake Peavy or Stephen Drew, thus opening a roster place for Victorino. If the team is unable to trade a veteran, however, they’d likely have to directly counteract their youth movement by demoting or limiting the playing time of one of their stud prospects. While a player returning from an injury is never bad news, Victorino’s activation could create more issues than it solves.