PAWTUCKET — To PawSox manager Kevin Boles, Shane Victorino passed his first rehab test.
Playing six innings in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at McCoy Stadium, Victorino went hitless in three at-bats and did not record a play in right field. He was replaced in the top of the seventh inning by Alex Hassan.
“The game-plan was five to six innings and three at-bats,” noted Boles.
The normally gregarious outfielder declined to speak to a small gathering of media types, thus leaving it up to Boles to address how Victorino’s right hamstring strain responded following the player’s first game action since late in spring training.
The most encouraging sign on the day came in the third inning when Victorino grounded out to third base. He got out of the box in a hurry and appeared to be running at a pretty good clip down the first-base line.
“He was aggressive and showed no hesitation,” said Boles. “I thought he looked pretty good.”
With Buffalo lefty Sean Nolin on the mound, Victorino batted from the right side all three times. Such a development may not qualify as earth-shattering news, but considering Victorino officially abandoned switch-hitting down the stretch last season, the sight of a southpaw must have been viewed as the perfect means to ease back into the fray after being idle for so long.
“He’s just trying to get his legs underneath him and we’re trying to get him through the innings as far as standing on his feet and running the bases,” said Boles.
Victorino was limited to 28 at-bats during the spring while being brought along slowly on a conditioning program. He suffered a Grade I strain of his right hamstring while legging out a double on a wet field at JetBlue Park on March 29. He was officially placed on the disabled list on March 31.
About a week later, Victorino had a severe bout of the flu that cased him to lose about 12 pounds.
A number of Red Sox personnel were on hand Saturday, the list of notables including Assistant General Manager Mike Hazen, Director of Player Development Ben Crockett and Director of Sports Medicine Service Dan Dyrek. All of them along the fans on hand saw Victorino face 14 pitches. He swung at exactly half of them with four of the cuts coming in his third and final turn on the day.
Victorino hit in the No. 2 spot. In the first at-bat, Nolin fell behind Victorino 3-0 – the three fastballs ranged between 89 and 91 miles per hour – before jamming him on the hands on the fifth pitch of the sequence. That resulted in a short pop up in foul territory and featured some nifty glove work by Buffalo first baseman Jared Goedert, who sacrificed his body en route to making a diving catch.
Victorino saw more off-speed pitches in second and third at-bats. His final swing of the day came in the sixth inning and featured him getting ahead of a 74-mph offering from Nolin and sending it to the warning track in left field.
Another test of Victorino’s hamstring came in the third inning. Charging in on a shallow pop-up, Victorino eventually ceded to Pawtucket second baseman Heiker Meneses.
“It looked like he was playing deep today and I don’t know if that’s something he normally does, but he broke hard on it and was making a run at it,” said Boles. “That and getting down the line (in the third inning) were two pretty good tests.”
Victorino arrived at McCoy roughly two hours before the 1:05 first pitch. He hit in the indoor cages beforehand and was warmly greeted by the McCoy Faithful while Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” blared over the PA system.
If everything checks out accordingly, the plan is for him to return to Pawtucket for games Monday and Tuesday.
“Obviously they’re going to re-evaluate him in Boston and we’ll let them handle it from there,” Boles stated.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03