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 debates surrounding the Red Sox lineup possibilities, there are several constants. Among those is placing Adrian Gonzalez either third or fourth.
However, what happens if the new first baseman needs a day off, or God forbid has a setback in his recovery from a surgically repaired right shoulder during spring training? Given that Gonzalez has played at least 160 games in four straight seasons, that first scenario is unlikely. Given that he says his shoulder is recovering well, the second is as well.
But in the interest of keeping all options open, let's analyze the scenario when the guy that may already be the club’s best hitter is unavailable. While Kevin Youkilis could move over to first and Jed Lowrie could play third, the Red Sox will make every effort to not have Youkilis moving back and forth too much. He is their third baseman and that’s how the club, and Youkilis, plan to keep it.
We saw Lowrie get some time in at first base last year and he should get plenty more in spring training. He figures to serve as the primary backup to Gonzalez, in the interest of keeping Youkilis put across the diamond.
A Lowrie for Gonzalez swap, if it ever takes place, would be best served when a left-hander is on the mound. That's where Lowrie is at his best. Ignoring that factor for the time being, here's a take on those days where Gonzalez is on the bench (gasp!), if it ever even occurs:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Jed Lowrie, 1B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Marco Scutaro, SS
Provided Lowrie continues to improve at first base, the defense will not suffer much. Offensively, the top five guys in the lineup are batting in spots that are very familiar to them. Additionally, there is nice righty-lefty separation, with Lowrie and Varitek offering switch-hitting capabilities. If Gonzalez is healthy, that’s a dangerous weapon off the bench.
Well, you're without Gonzalez, making the top of the lineup significantly leaner. It’s still very good, but any pitcher would rather face the Red Sox looking like this than the Red Sox with Gonzalez in the fold.
Likelihood we will see this lineup in 2011
As mentioned earlier, Gonzalez almost never misses time. This is an insurance order that most fans hope they never have to see, even if it is still very good.