Jed Lowrie Figures to Give Red Sox ‘Nice Dilemma’ Following Strong Stretch Run


Jed Lowrie Figures to Give Red Sox 'Nice Dilemma' Following Strong Stretch Run The revolving door that is the Red Sox? shortstop position found some stability in 2010. Marco Scutaro played 130 of the team?s first 136 games at the position, batted .275 and led the team in at-bats (632) and runs scored (92).

One would think that the last thing the organization needs is a search for another replacement (the Sox have had a different regular at short to start five of the last six years) but when an exciting option is right under your nose and it is much cheaper, significantly younger and quite promising, the shift might be easier to make.

Jed Lowrie?s solid stretch run, punctuated by a two-homer effort in Sunday?s win over the New York Yankees, has the potential to create a good old-fashioned fight for the starting shortstop job next spring in Florida.

"I want to play," Lowrie said Sunday. "I?m going to prepare myself this offseason to be an everyday player and see what happens."

The 26-year-old Lowrie has been down this road before, finishing a season in fine fashion by coming on strong in the second half. He did it in 2008, when he stabilized a position that had been riding a Julio Lugo roller coaster for more than a season by playing virtually flawless in the field and providing unexpected run production at the bottom of the order.

One may recall Lowrie?s 24 RBIs in 25 starts in August of that year, or his ALDS-clinching hit to knock out the Angels. He hit .297 with runners in scoring position, .333 with the bases loaded and .450 with a runner on third and less than two outs.

It wasn?t revealed until after the season that Lowrie had been playing that way with a broken left wrist, an ailment which derailed his 2009 season. Throw in the brutal bout of mononucleosis that hit Lowrie this spring and prevented him from even playing for months, and he became a relative afterthought.

There will be no forgetting what Lowrie did once he returned. Manager Terry Francona went so far as to call the upcoming position battle a "nice dilemma." The man above Francona certainly took note.

"He had a really, really good second half of the season," said general manager Theo Epstein. "I mean it was impressive what he was able to do, the numbers he was able to put up."

What Lowrie was able to do after returning to the big club July 21 was hit .287 with nine homers and 14 doubles in just 55 games, several of which he did not start. Only Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz had a higher slugging percentage. Only Youkilis and Beltre showcased a better OPS. In limited action, Lowrie was producing like the club?s elites.

"Even beyond the numbers he looked like a really good hitter at the plate," Epstein added. "He commanded the strike zone well. He swung with authority, especially from the right side and lately from the left side. He sees the ball extremely well. Probably sees the ball out of the hand as well as Youkilis and [Dustin] Pedroia and guys like that who make their living that way.

"For a guy that can play the middle infield those are some rare offensive skills to find. He?s a guy that can carve a real nice career for himself as an above average offensive player in the middle of the infield."

The difference between now and 2008, and what will give Scutaro a run for his money, is the fact that Lowrie is heading into the winter without any health problems. Scutaro, meanwhile, will be 35 in a few weeks and will have to undergo a throwing program to strengthen a weak right shoulder that made it impossible for him to even play shortstop over the final few weeks of the season.

That figures to give Lowrie an edge.

"I think I?ll continue to get stronger and mature," he said. "Especially with the wrist, that?s what I heard a lot with wrist injuries. It?s such an intricate area that it takes a long time to heal. You?ve got to be patient with it and I feel that that?s paying off right now … this will be the first time in awhile going into the offseason where I felt like I?ve been healthy."

Scutaro is under contract next year at $5.5 million. Lowrie will be tendered a deal in December. He made $434,000 in 2010. At some point down the road, whether with the Red Sox or in another town, Lowrie hopes to make his millions.

To get that, and a starting job, in Boston it will require the attention of Epstein and Francona. After a slugging stretch run that is exactly what Lowrie has.

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