Phillies Notes: Victorino is delivering as leadoff man

Shane Victorino singles to lead off the game. Victorino is on a nine-game hitting streak since moving into the leadoff spot.
Shane Victorino singles to lead off the game. Victorino is on a nine-game hitting streak since moving into the leadoff spot.
Posted: September 16, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Excuse Shane Victorino if, for a fleeting moment, something else is on his mind. His wife, Melissa, is expecting the couple's third child. The due date is Oct. 3, but Victorino is expecting the baby boy to come earlier, like "any day now."

If she doesn't give birth by next Thursday, well, it'll have to happen then, Victorino said. It's an off day and he doesn't want to miss a game during a pennant race if he can avoid it.

Right now, Victorino is going as well as he has this season. The centerfielder is on a nine-game hitting streak that began Sept. 6, the day he replaced Jimmy Rollins as the Phillies' new leadoff batter.

Victorino had two more hits Wednesday, including a triple that gave him 10 for the season.

"It's just a coincidence," he said of his streak. "I've done nothing differently."

But that doesn't mean the pitchers he is facing haven't.

After Tuesday's game, manager Charlie Manuel observed that pitchers had altered their approach this season against Victorino (and Rollins, too). Victorino, a fastball hitter, has seen more off-speed stuff. The numbers support it. According to data from Baseball Info Solutions, he has seen fewer fastballs than he has in any other season in his career. Pitchers have thrown him more sliders and curveballs than last season.

"Everyone in the league knows I'm a fastball hitter," Victorino said. "Why are you going to throw me one? That's why there are scouting reports."

Nonetheless, Victorino had seen more fastballs in the last eight games as leadoff hitter entering Wednesday. Albeit a small sample size, it does show one potential benefit to batting Victorino higher in the order.

According to Major League Baseball's pitch f/x data, Victorino had seen 56.7 percent fastballs in his last 41 plate appearances. In the 124 previous games, pitchers threw Victorino a fastball 50.5 percent of the time.

With Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth behind Victorino instead of Carlos Ruiz and the pitcher's spot, opposing pitchers may be more apt to throw Victorino a fastball.

Manuel said he wasn't sure if Victorino would still be hitting leadoff if Rollins was healthy. Victorino was inserted there before Rollins injured his right hamstring. When Rollins is at the top of his game, Manuel said, he's the team's leadoff hitter.

"I'm not saying Victorino can't move him," Manuel said.

Victorino's hot streak is at least salvaging what has been a disappointing season at times. His .770 OPS entering Wednesday was four points off his career mark. His batting average (.265) was down, and his righty/lefty splits had too great a variance.

Right now, even if his mind is elsewhere occasionally, Victorino has his manager smiling.

"When he's at the top of his game, he can hit anywhere," Manuel said. "That's the kind of hitter he is."

Schedule bits

The Phillies released their schedule late Tuesday night, and next season will end just as this one does - at Turner Field in Atlanta - on Sept. 26-28, 2011.

Major League Baseball is beginning the season during the week in an attempt to avoid having the World Series extend into November again. That means the Phillies will open on Friday, April 1, against the Houston Astros at Citizens Bank Park.

Both Roys will have homecomings - Halladay in Toronto on July 1-3 and Oswalt in Houston on Sept. 12-14.

Extra bases

Victorino isn't the only Phillie with a wife who's expecting. Brian Schneider did not fly home with the team after Wednesday's game so he could be with wife, Jordan, at the family's home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She will go into induced labor with the couple's third child during Thursday's off day. The catcher said he would rejoin the team in time for Friday's game. . . . San Diego reclaimed righthander Cesar Carrillo off waivers from the Phillies. Carrillo was a member of the Phils for three days before the team designated him for assignment when an extra infielder, Brian Bocock, was needed on the active roster.

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