It's easy to forget this now, five months later with the Red Sox in the midst of a heated pennant chase, but when the 2009 season began, the Red Sox' shortstop job was Jed Lowrie's to lose.
And lose it, he did. Lowrie played five games for the Red Sox in early April — he was 1-for-18 with a single, two walks and seven strikeouts. Hitting .056 one week into the season, Lowrie was moved to the 60-day DL on April 12 with what the Red Sox called a sprained left wrist.
That's when the carousel started moving.
There was Nick Green. There was Julio Lugo. There was Green again. Then came Alex Gonzalez. Then … well, a little more Green, but it appears to be Gonzalez's job for good in 2009.
You have to wonder when Lowrie will get his turn again.
You don't have to be overly optimistic to hold out hope for Jed Lowrie as the Red Sox' long-term shortstop of the future. And since the Sox haven't had anyone fill that role since the departure of Nomar Garciaparra, it would be good for the collective sanity of the Red Sox' fan base to see someone settle into the shortstop role and really get comfortable.
Lowrie is back with the Red Sox now, healthy and ready to contribute. He was activated on July 18 with his wrist healed. Less than a month later, however, he reinjured the left arm, feeling numbness in his forearm. He went on the DL, but he's back now. And presumably, he's healthy and raring to go.
Don't let the playing time fool you.
Terry Francona and the Red Sox are being as cautious as can be with Lowrie's comeback. Since returning to the Red Sox on Sept. 8, Lowrie has appeared in six games in 16 days. In all six, he was a defensive replacement — either for Gonzalez or for Dustin Pedroia at second base. He's yet to show off what he can do at the plate.
People forget that Lowrie was originally drafted for his offense. At Stanford, he was a two-time All-American. He won the Pac-10 Player of the Year award in 2004 — his stats of .399/.505/.734 made him look like Barry Bonds on steroids. But Lowrie is still waiting for a chance to show the Red Sox his potential at the major league level.
In his six games back with the Sox this month, he's gotten a grand total of one at-bat. It was a week ago Wednesday, in the Red Sox' dramatic 9-8 win over the Angels — Lowrie pinch-hit for Dusty Brown with two outs in the ninth and the game on the line, and his infield single to the left side kept the Red Sox in the game. Two batters later, they walked off with a win.
Lowrie is 1-for-1 at the plate since returning to the Red Sox.
That at-bat, you'll note, came against Angels closer Brian Fuentes, who happens to be a lefty. Lowrie is a switch-hitter, and when he faces lefties batting from the right side, he uses the strength of his right arm to propel the bat. No surgical history on that limb.
The real test for Lowrie will be batting from the left side. He hasn't done it yet, and it doesn't appear that the Red Sox think he's ready. When Lowrie was in line for another ninth-inning at-bat Tuesday, this time facing Royals closer Joakim Soria, a righty, Francona yanked him in a heartbeat. Mike Lowell stepped to the plate in his stead, promptly flying out to end the ballgame.
Eventually, Lowrie will have to return to his switch-hitting ways. Until he does, he's not the guy the Red Sox drafted — the potent hitter with unlimited upside.
And until the Sox get that guy back, it looks like shortstop is Gonzalez's spot to lose.
When the real Lowrie gets back, though, expect Gonzalez to lose it.
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