Sep 092010

Phillies CF Shane Victorino

September 9 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Paul Hagen

“BEFORE THE GAME, he was recognized for his charitable works and his new foundation and his nomination as the Phillies’ representative for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes outstanding community service.

And you just know the Phillies were so proud of Shane Victorino that their buttons were bursting. And also that they quietly wished his accomplishments on the field this season more consistently measured up to his good deeds off it.

Where was the guy who, along with Jimmy Rollins, helped trigger the offense with his speed? Where was the Flyin’ Hawaiian who stole 61 bases in the last two World Series campaigns and was a triple waiting to happen every time he stepped to the plate?

Instead, they had a centerfielder whose batting average has hovered around .250 most of the season.

“Very, very, very frustrating. But I don’t look at it that way. I just kind of look past what’s happened up to this point. There’s nothing I can do about it,” a suddenly hot Victorino said reflectively after knocking out a pair of doubles and a single in last night’s 10-6 win over the Marlins at the Bank.

“Obviously, everybody around me is probably wondering what’s the reason. But I can only look from right now forward. I can’t change what I’ve done. Obviously I’d like to be hitting .290, .300. But I’m not. So I have to make the best of what I am and what I’m doing now.”

What he’s doing now is pretty good. In his last three games, all Phillies wins, he’s 8-for-16 with four stolen bases and six runs scored.

While Placido Polanco drove in the game-winning run against Florida on Tuesday night, it was Victorino who made it all possible by singling and stealing second in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and nobody on.

And all of this became just a little more vital after the bottom of the third inning, when Rollins limped off the field with what was diagnosed as tightness in his right hamstring.

Manager Charlie Manuel said after the game that Rollins was also dehydrated, that the preliminary report he got from the medical staff was good and that his impression was that the injury might not be serious.

On the other hand, Rollins has been on the disabled list twice already this year with right calf strains. And hamstrings can linger. Until further notice, then, it will most likely be up to Victorino to get on base, set the table, rattle the opposing team with the threat to run, ignite the offense.

Which, remember, wasn’t the role the Phillies had envisioned for him this year. When Manuel drew up his ideal lineup this spring, he had Victorino batting sixth or seventh. The move down in the order was dictated by the acquisition of Polanco and the feeling that, freed from the strictures of situational hitting that come with batting second, he could blossom into a more productive hitter.

It didn’t exactly work out that way. Yes, he already has a career-high 17 homers. But batting sixth or seventh, he’s a combined 26-for-177 (.222).

He also spent a couple weeks on the disabled list with an abdominal strain but insisted neither that or being moved in the batting order accounts for the fact that he had hit a combined .292 in 2008-2009 but just .257 at the start of play last night.”

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