Friday, June 12, 2009

Lugo might be done in Boston

The only thing loud about Julio Lugo on Thursday was his suit.

Every Red Sox player in the locker room pulled out their travel ensembles after polishing off a sweep of the Yankees. Ramon Ramirez looked particularly sharp in a gray suit with a pink shirt underneath. But Lugo pulled out all the stops, starting with the red pants and continuing with the blue coat he wore over a dress shirt with red and white stripes.

Lugo, of course, didn't play an inning in the Red Sox's sweep of the Yankees this week. He hasn't appeared in a game in a week -- not since he failed to make a routine-looking play up the middle the last time Penny took the mound. He hasn't gotten a hit since May 29 -- a span in whch he's only had seven plate appearances.

Nick Green, meanwhile, sparked the eighth-inning rally with a single up the middle and helped preserve the lead with a sensational stab of a ground ball up the middle in the top of the ninth, spinning and throwing just in time to nip Derek Jeter by a step.

"That was awesome," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "Obviously, the ball is probably all wet, and Jeter runs well. To get that leadoff guy out, that's huge for us. ... He's got a lot of range, and obviously a great arm, too, so when he gets to it, it's going to be an out."

Green hit .364 (4-for-11) with a double and a home run in the three games against the Yankees. Even better, he's gone more than a week without making an error -- an impressive feat given that he made nine errors in his first 37 games. His spin-and-throw gem on Thursday and his throw to double up Nick Swisher on Wednesday were two of the biggest defensive plays in the three-game series.

Where does that leave Lugo?

It's not hard to connect the dots.

Jed Lowrie went with the Red Sox to Philadelphia last night but will head to Lowell on Monday to take live batting practice against some of the draft picks. If all goes well, the Red Sox could send him out on a rehabilitation stint as early as Thursday. He could be back in the lineup within two weeks.

The Red Sox, though, can't carry three shortstops. Someone has to go once Lowrie returns.

It isn't going to be Green.

Terry Francona, of course, refused to take the bait Thursday afternoon when a reporter asked him about his shortstop situation. There still are too many variables -- not the least of which is the health of Lowrie.

"I don't they're going to let us carry 26 players," he said. "You're getting way ahead of me. Why in the world would I make out our lineup for July? I'm happy I just got through tonight's. I'd never do that. ...

"I just want to get (Lowrie) healthy. When he gets healthy, I'll be really healthy to have him back -- and then we'll figure out what the hell to do."

Lugo is owed $9 million this season and $9 million next season. The Red Sox, though, aren't adamantly opposed to eating contracts if it means making their team better.

Francona won't say anything -- but his actions, as they say, speak louder than words. Green is his starter at shortstop right now. Lowrie, you have to assume, is ahead of Green on the depth chart when he's healthy.

That leaves Lugo as the odd man out. His Red Sox career easily could be over by the end of this month.

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