MESA, Ariz. - As of right now, the Cubs still have a crowded outfield, but Shane Victorino has an ace up his sleeve to help him crack the roster.
Victorino broke into the big leagues as a switch-hitter over a decade ago, but a back injury forced him to return to his natural side of right-handed while with the Boston Red Sox in 2013.
Now, for the first time in almost three years, Victorino feels healthy enough to return to switch-hitting.
"The thing I've found from going back to it - my body's dynamic from both sides," Victorino said. "My body starts to sync up correctly. I'm doing things from both sides rotationally.
"My body feels great. ... Listen, a month from now, I don't know. But right now, physically, I feel great."
Victorino's back injury got so bad that he had to have surgery on it in August 2014. When he got back on the field last season, he still didn't feel strong enough to hit left-handed, so stuck with righty in games.
But as the 2015 season wore on, Victorino started feeling better and began working in his left-handed stroke in the batting cage and occasionally in batting practice.
He's been working out all winter from both sides of the plate and took batting practice from each side Sunday in Sloan Park.
Victorino said he's going to stick to switch-hitting barring any further injury. He knows it's a great tool to have at his disposal and manager Joe Maddon confirmed Sunday it would help the Cubs coming off the bench.
"It's definitely something that, as a player, I wish I never had to lose," Victorino said. "Unfortunately, injuries kinda took me away from it.
"I'm very excited to be back switch-hitting and trying to be the dynamic player I once was."
Victorino feels like working from both sides of the plate helps his swing across the board (i.e. his left-handed swing can help his right-handed mechanics and vice versa).
He picked up switch-hitting in the minor leagues at age 20, but struggled and stopped. The following season, while playing in the Los Angeles Dodgers system, a coach suggested Victorino pick up switch-hitting again to help set himself apart from other oufielders.
He found success with it and it stuck for the next 12 years before injury struck.
When he moved back to becoming just a right-handed hitter, Victorino found some success in 2013.
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But the 35-year-old veteran felt like the league caught up with him after they were initially thrown for a loop seeing Victorino as strictly a right-hander.
"To see these players talk about getting rid of being a switch-hitter, every single one I've talked to, I say, 'If it wasn't for physical reasons, there's no other reason why I'd give it up,'" Victorino said. "Some of these guys don't want to do it because, 'Oh, I'm not good from one side' or, 'I'm better from one side.'
"I'm like, in today's game, the numbers game that everybody plays and the matchups, it's not a benefit to get rid of switch-hitting.
"If you're a switch-hitter, I don't care if you hit .150 on one side and .400 on the other. Do not give it up."