In LA, Victorino circles back to start of his career
Newly acquired outfielder comfortable with move to left, leadoff
LOS ANGELES -- Shane Victorino entered his new clubhouse three hours before Wednesday's first pitch with two red bags that were in stark contrast to all of the Dodger Blue around him.
"Where it all began," Victorino said to his locker neighbor James Loney or "J-Lo" as he called him as the two hugged.
The red bags will soon change to blue as Victorino is back with the Dodgers, the team that drafted him in the sixth round in 1999. And although he was sad to leave Philadelphia, he was excited to begin a new chapter in his career with the team that once gave him a chance to make it as a professional player.
"Now I get to wear Dodger Blue again," Victorino said. "Not as a young kid, but as a guy who has had time in the big leagues, has had some fun and some great moments. I'm trying to relive those moments here."
Victorino's debut in blue was a long time coming, although he didn't fare as well as he would have hoped, finishing 0-for-4 with a strikeout as the leadoff man in the Dodgers' 4-0 loss to the D-backs.
He said he there was a lot of adrenaline Wednesday, and he expects to be more calm and efficient on Friday in his next game.
"I went up there every at-bat, I battled," he said. "I want to do the best I can. Do I want to go 4-for-4 every night? Who doesn't? But things like that don't always happen and I think you have to keep battling. This is a talented team and we are going to be fine."
Victorino became a Gold Glove outfielder, All-Star and World Series champion with the Phillies, and he's excited to help the Dodgers in any way he can in their run to October.
One of those ways will be shifting to left field after playing center field in Philadelphia.
"We joked about it. [Manager Don] Mattingly said [Matt] Kemp is here for eight years. You might be a two-month rental, he said in a kidding way," Victorino said, referring to bringing up a quote to his new manager that Kemp said about being OK switching positions.
"Going to play a corner outfield, I've done that before," he added. "I've played right, I played a little bit of left early in my career, so is it going to be an adjustment? Yes, but I got a guy that I worked with before that worked with me in the outfield and actually made me into a Gold Glove center fielder. I would say why can't he make me a Gold Glove left fielder?"
That coach was Davey Lopes, whom Victorino is reunited with in Los Angeles. Lopes, who was the Phillies' first-base coach from 2007-10, said there isn't much to work on moving from center field to left and he thinks the Dodgers got a talented player who is a gamer and loves to compete.
"I remember when he was a kid and I had him in San Diego and he played center field, excellent center field," Lopes said. "He went over to the Phillies and played right field and made an excellent right fielder. Then he became an excellent center fielder with a Gold Glove. He says he has no problems in left, so I'm pretty sure he has no problems in left."
Another change will be batting leadoff after primarily hitting second or sixth with the Phillies. He said he hit leadoff occasionally when Jimmy Rollins was hurt, so he isn't worried about moving to the top of the order.
"It doesn't matter where I play," he said. "I've always said that."
Victorino, who will wear No. 8 with the Dodgers (it was previously Mattingly's number), is just excited to play on a team that he said reminds him a lot of the Phillies when they started making noise in the National League a few years ago.
"This was kind of where [the Phillies] were a few years ago when we were the team that everybody reckoned with," he said. "You talked about guys like myself, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, a lineup like that. Coming here you are hitting in a lineup where you have myself, you've got Hanley Ramirez, you've got Matt Kemp, you've got Andre Ethier, you've got James Loney and you've got a staff."
Whether Victorino will just be that two-month rental or more is still anyone's guess, but in the meantime he is ready to help the Dodgers make a push so he can earn himself another World Series ring.
"Being here a few weeks ago and playing against these guys, I knew this was a good team," Victorino said. "When I was asked about the opportunity to go here and be that extra piece to make this playoff push, I'm all for it. I'm excited to be here and, as we say, on the home side and not just walking in as a visiting player to this great city."
Victorino, who was what Mattingly called a thorn in the Dodgers' side the past few years, was booed heavily in that series earlier this month when Philadelphia visited Los Angeles. As his name was announced prior to Wednesday's game, those boos turned to cheers. It appears the city of Los Angeles is just as excited as Victorino that he can call Dodger Stadium home now, too.
Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.