FORT MYERS, Fla. — Ultimately, Jed Lowrie said Saturday in Red Sox camp, he would like to be a regular shortstop. Knowing that his role may be more spread around than that this year, he is content just being healthy.
A year ago at this time, Lowrie wasn’t feeling all that great. It wouldn’t be until March that he was diagnosed with mononucleosis, but he knew “something wasn’t right” long before then.
This offseason was the first in “a long time” in which he was able to train normally. It has him focusing on being the best player he can be, regardless of where they put him.
“It’s been a couple of years since I had a productive offseason when I didn’t have to fix something, and I was able to get some good work in,” he said. “Ultimately, yeah [I want to start at shortstop], but spring training has started now and it’s about the team. This offseason I could concentrate on what I need to do and now it’s about the team.”
That team-first approach will have Lowrie playing all four infield spots this spring, and likely all summer. He said Saturday that the focus of his work in camp will be at shortstop, where Marco Scutaro is the starter.
Lowrie said he feels most comfortable now playing middle infield spots, but is getting more accustomed with third base as well. He will also see more work at first base during Grapefruit League play. Lowrie played seven games off the bench at first last season. However, he has no designs on stealing any jobs over there.
“That’s not the competition I want to be in,” he said with a laugh, referring to what would be a fruitless campaign against slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Lowrie, who emerged in 2008 as a solid replacement at shortstop, struggled with wrist ailments during that season. They lingered into 2009, when he has only able to get into 32 games at the big league level while hitting .147.
Following a long recovery from that brutal bout with mono last year, he again served as a capable fill-in at shortstop and second base in the second half. Only this time, his production soared and he batted .287, seemingly putting the 26-year-old in competition with Scutaro, nine years his elder, for playing time.
Manager Terry Francona has said that Scutaro is his starter, but he also indicated this week in camp that he will force Scutaro to get more time off this season. Lowrie is the shortstop on each of those days, and he will prepare to spell the other big three in the infield when necessary.
“I see myself as an everyday shortstop but I don’t think it hurts that I can play several other positions,” he said. “I think the team sees that and that adds value.”
It could be incredibly valuable if the Red Sox endure even a fraction of the injuries that hit the team in 2010. Because of the loss of Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, the late departure of Scutaro and other bumps and bruises, 16 different players had at least one game at an infield spot last season, many of them moving all over the place.
Lowrie said that concentrating on the shortstop gig will not detract from his preparation elsewhere.
“If you take groundballs at shortstop it prepares you for the other positions,” he said. “So the majority of my groundballs will be at shortstop, but I’ll have to move around just to see the hops and see the timing of everything at the other positions.”
In time, Lowrie may be cemented to one spot. For now, he’s just happy to be healthy in camp.