Jed Lowrie Gives Terry Francona Lineup Flexibility, Especially If Marco Scutaro Struggles

Jed Lowrie Gives Terry Francona Lineup Flexibility, Especially If Marco Scutaro Struggles Editor's note: Each weekday starting Jan. 17, NESN.com Red Sox reporter Tony Lee will offer his take on 10 different potential lineups for the 2011 Red Sox. Check back every day to see a new offensive rundown and the pros, cons and likelihood of each.

In the first four looks at possible Red Sox lineups, the focus has primarily been on matchups with left-handers on the mound.

One of the switches that could take place against a southpaw is Jed Lowrie for Marco Scutaro at shortstop, due to the fact that the former pounds lefty pitching. But that's assuming somewhat of a platoon at the position. What happens if Lowrie hits like he did at the end of last season and Scutaro never fully regains his defensive skills at shortstop? There might be no need to play the matchup game at all.

Imagining that Lowrie is your starting shortstop, here is another possible lineup for Terry Francona:

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Carl Crawford, LF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
6. David Ortiz, DH
7. Jed Lowrie, SS
8. J.D. Drew, RF
9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

Pros: Again, assuming that Lowrie looks like he did when he hit .293 with nine home runs over the final two months of the season, this could be the best offensive grouping Francona could throw out there. For all the criticism J.D. Drew receives, that is a darn good No. 8 hitter, and your optimum top six remains together.

Cons: There are two. For one, the presence of Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia implies that a righty is on the mound, but Lowrie typically does much of his damage against lefties. The Red Sox can hope that Lowrie’s production against right-handers last year (.823 OPS) is a sign that he will have more balance going forward. The second issues lies in the possibility of Saltalamacchia reaching base ahead of the speedy portion of the lineup — it’s not easy for Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Carl Crawford to use their legs much if the rumbling Saltalamacchia is 90 or 180 feet ahead of them. Then again, beggars can’t be choosers. If Saltalamacchia is getting on base with regularity, Francona will take it. If the skipper does want to avoid it, Salty and Lowrie could be swapped, but then you have the unproven catcher hitting behind David Ortiz.

Likelihood we will see this lineup in 2011: Francona has hinted that he loves the flexibility that Lowrie gives in a super-utility role, the kind of guy that makes four starts a week at three different positions. Chances are the bulk of his starts, however many he gets, will come at Scutaro’s expense. Some semblance of this lineup could appear at least once a week, much more if Lowrie flat-out wins the job.

Thursday, Jan. 20: Jacoby Ellsbury will be feeling the pressure, as the Sox now have multiple leadoff options.

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