CLEARWATER, Fla.--Now that his sore right shoulder is well enough (though still a bit stiff), Shane Victorino begins his 2010 season tomorrow night against the Atlanta Braves. He will bat second, a rare treat for Victorino after the Phillies signed third baseman Placido Polanco, who will usually hit there this season. The team believes that Polanco's high contact rate makes him an ideal no. 2 hitter, though Victorino will see occasional chances at the top of the order.
After signing a three-year, $22 million contract in January, Victorino said all the right things about moving down to the bottom third. This morning--while still saying that he understood and endorsed the team's rationale for altering the batting order-- he admitted that he saw pros and cons for himself.
"It is what it is," Victorino said when asked if he was okay with the change. "It's going to be a year of adjustments for me...I've (batted second) the last two years; why would I want to change? But you've got to look at the big picture. It'll definitely be a different dynamic in the lineup."
Victorino expects to see fewer fastballs in the new position, the consequence of having less frightening hitters directly behind him.
"When I'm hitting second, I've got Chase, Ryan and the rest of the guys behind me, so of course (pitchers) are going to go after me," he said. "Now I'm hitting seventh, I've got Carlos (Ruiz) and the pitcher behind me. So am I going to be pitched differently? Am I going to get a lot of breaking balls? So that's all going to come into play. I'm going to have to adjust as we go."
He envisions scenarios in which opposing pitchers would not risk throwing him strikes. "Late in the game, if I'm the pitcher, and there's a guy at second, one out, me up, open base at first? Who are you going to go after? Most likely you're going to go after Carlos, and then the pitcher...those are the things that come into play, and that's the adjustment that I'm going to have to make. But I'm ready. Whatever."
Though Victorino's .358 on-base percentage last year was respectable, he said that taking pitches was not his favorite activity. He prefers to swing at fastballs, and enjoyed many opportunities to do so while hitting second.
"That's something I've got to work on," he said of taking pitches. "I like to hit. My on-base percentage wasn't bad, but again, I like to hit. I like to put the ball into play. I don't like to strike out much."
Victorino does see several advantages to the change. A no. 2 hitter must worry about moving runners from one base to another by hitting the ball to a particular location in the field. He rarely hits while multiple runners on base, and because of the power hitters behind him, he often doesn't attempt to steal in order to avoid making a pointless out.
"The other aspect is I can swing freely," Victorino said. "I don't have to worry about moving the runner over. That's the positive side; I can go up there and just swing...also you'll be in a lot more RBI situations. There are pluses and negatives. In this game, home runs and RBIs drive your value. There are also going to be situations when I can run more, a little more freely."