Phils' Victorino flourishes


POSTED: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PHOENIX » Along the way, Shane Victorino nearly missed that 2008 World Series victory parade down Broad Street to Citizens Bank Park.

Early in his stay with the Philadelphia Phillies, Victorino was a distant memory in the organization, a forgotten soul; his abilities not fully showcased and destined to wander through the barren minor league landscape.

Then-assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. liked what he saw in the Wailuku boy, and convinced Victorino he had a place in the Phillies organization. Victorino took that vote of confidence, ran with it and is now a vital component in a championship team in the middle of its quest to repeat.

“;I knew I had the ability, and the decision to stay was a no-brainer,”; he said yesterday in the clubhouse at Chase Field. “;You have to believe hard work will pay off, and if I had an opportunity, I'd make the most of it.”;

That was spring training 2005, and with his work ethic and desire to burn a path to the major leagues, Victorino went to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre. His .310 batting average, 25 doubles, a minor league-leading 16 triples and 18 home runs earned the International League MVP award and a September call-up.

The turning point was a late-season game in Atlanta. Facing right-hander Tim Hudson, Victorino golfed a low fastball into the seats at Turner Field, and from that point, his future loomed bright.

“;From that plate appearance, he looked good, and we thought of him as a fourth outfielder,”; said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “;Since that time against Hudson, he's developed as a very good situational hitter. He's waiting back on pitches, learning to pull to the right side and being more selective.”;

Still, Victorino had to wait his turn.

In time, the traffic jam of Pat Burrell in left, Aaron Rowand in center and Bobby Abreu in right dissipated. However, David Dellucci took over for Abreu in right field, and Victorino, again, patiently awaited his turn.

After Dellucci signed as a free agent with Cleveland at the start of the 2007 season, Victorino stepped in as the opening-day right fielder, and immediately contributed a .281 average to the playoff-bound Phillies.

Things came together last year, as the 28-year-old won his first Gold Glove, set career marks with a .293 average, 167 hits, 102 runs , 30 doubles, 14 home runs, 58 RBIs, 45 walks and 36 stolen bases. Add a championship ring, and the resume looks good.





        Shane Victorino's 2009 stats through Sunday's games:

» Batting average: .318


» Home runs: 7


» RBIs: 46


» Stolen bases: 16


» Caught stealing: 7


“;There's always room for improvement and to get better,”; Victorino said. “;I learn something new every day in this game, and the game is always changing.”;

In many ways, Victorino is playing even better this year.

With Jimmy Rollins leading off and Victorino hitting second, the Phillies have one of the best one-two punches at the top of a lineup in the majors. They set the table for Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

For the month of July going into last night's game, Victorino leads all major leaguers in hits with 37. He's also hitting .471 against left-handers since May 24. After Sunday's win over St. Louis, Victorino was seventh in the NL in hitting (.320), second in runs scored (72) and second in multiple-hit games (37).

With those kind of numbers, it's no wonder Victorino was the fan's write-in choice for the final spot on the National League All-Star team. He also got a little help from Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter. Teammate Jayson Werth also benefited when he was named to the squad to replace the Mets' Carlos Beltran. His selection gave the Phillies three all-star outfielders (add Raul Ibanez) from the same team for the first time since the 1972 Pittsburgh Pirates.

“;If Shane doesn't get in, I'm not named,”; Werth said. “;He is as big a contributor on this team as anyone.”;

With NLCS and World Series MVP Cole Hamels as the cornerstone of the pitching staff, Victorino said the team would welcome the addition of another quality pitcher or two. Already, the Phillies signed Pedro Martinez and hope the veteran right-hander can contribute with a few wins.

The catch is Toronto's Roy Halladay, but the Jays' asking price may be too high.

“;Who would not want to have the best pitcher in baseball,”; Victorino said of the 32-year old Halladay. “;He would definitely put a smile on your face, and I would not want to face Hamels, Pedro or Halladay in a short series.”;

Despite his business address in Philadelphia and an offseason house in Las Vegas, Victorino said Hawaii “;will always be home.”;

“;My family is still there and I make it back several times a year,”; he said. “;I hold a few clinics and started a charity golf event on Maui last year. That was a success, and we're doing it again in November. It's always important to give back to the community, and look forward to helping with these events.”;