Inside the Phillies: Victorino left a hole yet to be filled

Boston's Shane Victorino (right) expects an emotional homecoming when he returns to Philly this week, even though he is out with an injury.
Boston's Shane Victorino (right) expects an emotional homecoming when he returns to Philly this week, even though he is out with an injury. (GENEVIEVE ROSS/ Associated Press)
Posted: May 26, 2013

BOSTON - This was supposed to be the week that Shane Victorino played the outfield again at Citizens Bank Park.

It's not going to happen because the Phillies' former centerfielder landed on the disabled list Friday with a tight left hamstring. He thinks it's related to the back injury that forced him to miss time earlier this season.

The bottom line is Victorino will not go to the plate or play in the field during the Phillies' four-game series against the Red Sox that starts with two games in Boston on Monday and Tuesday before moving to Philadelphia on Wednesday and Thursday. Victorino will attend the two games in Philadelphia and expects it to be an emotional homecoming.

"I thought about it from the day I signed with the Red Sox," Victorino said. "No doubt it's going to be a different feeling for me and an emotional one."

Even with Victorino sidelined, the Phillies will likely find a way to recognize the Flyin' Hawaiian before or during Wednesday's game. They know how much he meant to the team's success during arguably the best era in franchise history.

Given the cost of signing Victorino - he received a three-year deal worth $39 million from Boston - and the fact that he has already missed 16 games because of injury and he will be out at least nine more, it's difficult to criticize the Phillies for trading him last year at the deadline. Despite his popularity and immense contributions, it was time to move on.

The difficult part of moving on is finding the right replacement for the dearly departed player. That's what made Victorino so special. He replaced Bobby Abreu in right field and Aaron Rowand in center field during his time with the Phillies and went from a Rule 5 draft pick to a two-time all-star and three-time Gold Glove recipient.

Rowand was a quickly forgotten fan favorite because Victorino more than filled his shoes in center field and helped the Phillies win a World Series.

Jayson Werth was also a fan favorite, but nobody complained much when he accepted a seven-year, $126 million deal to sign with Washington. The Phillies would have been crazy to pay him that amount over that many years.

The problem is that 11 players have played right field for the Phillies since Werth's departure. With the exception of Hunter Pence's second-half run in 2011, they haven't had anyone adequately fill the position.

That's how an offense wilts and a team's playoff hopes die.

Ruben Amaro Jr. thinks he found a similar high-energy guy to Victorino in Ben Revere, whom he acquired from the Minnesota Twins. So far, however, the 25-year-old kid from Kentucky has looked more like Ricky Otero than the Flyin' Hawiian.

That could change. Revere was a first-round draft pick by the Twins and he played much better in Minnesota last season than he has so far with the Phillies this season. This, in fact, is the time of the season when he took off a year ago. Revere was hitting .239 on May 25 last season and he batted .299 with a .336 on-base percentage the rest of the way.

Victorino said he was pulling for Revere and the Phillies.

"It's always hard to replace a guy, but I was always just myself and played my game," Victorino said. "That's what Ben has to do now. I talked to him about it a little bit in spring training. I told him, 'Just go out there and be yourself and have fun doing it.'

"Watching from afar, he has made some outstanding defensive plays, but I know people are going to focus more on what he's doing at the plate, which is obviously a big part of the problem in Philly. When you don't hit, people will focus on that."

The Phillies have been an offense in decline for a few years now.

"When we were on our run, we slugged," Victorino said. "It's declined the last couple of years and we relied on pitching. I see the frustration that's going on now. I pay attention because I'm a fan of the game and some of those guys are my best friends."

Some fans, including many who root for the Phillies, believe the second great run in franchise history is over.

"I don't want to say that," Victorino said. "Those guys are in a different league than me, so I want to see them at the end [in the World Series] against us. Do I see it coming to an end? I want to say no, but I can see the frustration building. I don't think that's the way the organization wants it to go or the way the organization is run. I know I don't want to see that window close."


Ben . . . and What Might Have Been

After Shane Victorino's highly successful five-year run as the Phillies' everyday centerfielder, the job now belongs to Ben Revere, who has struggled through the first seven weeks of the season. Here's a look at how the available center-field candidates had performed entering the weekend.

PLAYER    AB    H    2B    3B    HR    RBI    BB    SO    AVG.    OPS

Ben Revere (PHI)    136    35    3    1    0    5    8    20    .257    .593

a- Shane Victorino (BOS)    127    36    4    0    2    10    11    16   .283    .705

B.J. Upton (ATL)    148    23    4    0    4    7    16    55    .155    .509

b- Michael Bourn (CLE)    97    31    6    1    2    6    6    23   .320    .829

c- Denard Span (WAS)    173    46    7    2    0    11    16    28    .266    .661

d- Shin-Soo Choo (CIN)    170    51    11    1    9    19    34    43   .300    .984

Angel Pagan (SF)    177    46     9    1    2    22    15    24    .260 .670

Key: a-currently on the disabled list; b-on the disabled list from April 15 through May 9;

c-Traded from Minnesota to Washington. d-traded from Cleveland to Cincinnati.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @brookob.

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