Healthy Victorino: 'No intentions of being bench player'

Red Sox OF competing for roster spot following back surgery in August

Healthy Victorino: 'No intentions of being bench player'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Being healthy has never felt so good for Shane Victorino.

"It felt outstanding to be back out there," said Victorino, who took batting practice and did a variety of other drills on Thursday, six days before the Red Sox have their first full-squad workout.

Victorino, who had back surgery last August, is ready to go at full speed from the start this spring.

"I'm planning on getting into the game as soon as we can, as soon as the games start," Victorino said. "There's no limitations in my mind. I don't know from a medical standpoint what they have in mind. But the discussions we had, I told them I'd be ready to go Day 1, the 25th, when we report as a team. I plan on doing every single drill and everything as a team."

And when the Red Sox open their season at Victorino's favorite old haunt -- Philadelphia on April 6 -- he plans on being in right field. In other words, Victorino doesn't feel squeezed by the logjam in Boston's outfield.

"I have no intentions of being a bench player," Victorino said. "I say it with the utmost respect of the guys who are in the outfield and I'm going to compete against. If I'm healthy, I think that will take care of itself.

"I'm focused, I'm prepared and I did everything I could possibly do to prepare myself. I'll be ready for the challenge and I'll be ready to go and have some fun."

Last year wasn't fun for Victorino, not a single bit of it.

"That's the one thing I miss, being around the guys. I love my family. They're No. 1 in my life. But this is what I've always wanted to do," Victorino said. "This has always been my dream to play the game of baseball, and that's the kind of stuff that motivates me."

There wasn't a single day of 2014 when Victorino was right physically. He came into camp still hampered by injuries that had nagged him late in 2013, and his body only worsened.

Just before Opening Day, Victorino was placed on the disabled list. After a couple of short-lived comebacks, he had the season-ending surgery in August.

"I understand I am 34, people want to talk about age, but I've seen guys at 37 and 38 get contracts," Victorino said. "People are going to say what they want. People are going to feel how they want. I just use it as motivation. I just use it as fuel to the fire. Keep counting me as the underdog. I love being the underdog. There's no better place to be than being the guy with his back against the wall."

The adversity re-emphasized to Victorino what he has to do to stay productive.

"When I say that, I say it with the utmost respect that being to as many postseasons playing in the World Series, playing deep into October, your offseasons get shortened. But that's no excuse for the things that happened," Victorino said. "For me, [this winter], I've prepared myself in ways that I probably never prepared. I'm coming in with the mindset to go out there, and more importantly, be healthy and the rest will take care of itself."

Hanley Ramirez will be Boston's starting left fielder. Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts and Victorino are competing for playing time in center and right.

"Coming in as an underdog, quote-unquote, people will say I'm not the starting right fielder. Mookie's going to be the guy, Rusney's in center, Hanley's in left," Victorino said. "Hey, I'm ready. I have respect for every single one of those guys. At the end of the day, we're going to make all ourselves better. That's what I'm planning to do."

Even after being a central part in two World Series championship teams, Victorino knows he isn't above competition, nor does he want to be.

"If Mookie makes me better, Castillo makes me better, Hanley makes me better, I know I'm getting better," said Victorino. "If I make them better players, then that's what it's about. That's the focus. In regards to a competition, I use it as a friendly competition. It's one of those things where you test yourself as an athlete. I want to push him to be better; I want him to continue to push me to be better."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.