MESA, Ariz. – The Shane Victorino in Cubs camp on a minor-league deal may not be as high a Flyin’ Hawaiian as he was in his 20’s and early ‘30s.
But the Cubs may yet benefit from at least one major element of the more “dynamic” former Victorino that the outfielder says he has recaptured in recent months.
After he was forced to stop switch-hitting during the 2013 season when back pain made left-handed hitting ineffective, Victorino’s surgically repaired back is healthy again, and he’s switch-hitting again this year.
“I’m very excited to go back to something that I wish I never got rid of,” said Victorino, 35, who started the process by quietly stealing time in the batting cages toward the end of last season with the Angels, then taking the process into the winter.
“The thing that I found out going back to it is my body’s back to being dynamic from both sides,” said Victorino, a four-time Gold Glove winner whose bench role could grow significantly with production from both sides of the plate.
“That’s good for him and for us,” said Maddon, who stretches more versatility out of more players than almost any other manager in the game.
Victorino is a career .268 hitter (.329 on-base percentage) hitting from his off side against right-handers. But even some with initial success in 2013 hitting right-handed against surprised right-handers, his right-on-right split since abandoning the left side was just .242 (.309 OBP) in 376 plate appearances.
Victorino, who didn’t start hitting from the left side until his early 20s, emphasizes it’s something he never would have stopped if not for injury. And he shakes his head at those who quit switch-hitting for any other reason.
“In today’s game and the numbers game that everybody plays, and the matchups, it’s not a benefit to get rid of switch-hitting,” he said. “If you’re a switch-hitter, I don’t care if you hit a buck-50 on one side and you hit .400 on the other, do not give it up, because of the way today’s game is. It’s about matchups. It’s about numbers.”