Monday, September 28, 2009

Green and Lowrie remain question marks

Red Sox shortstop Nick Green spent some time before Monday's game working out with Red Sox trainers -- jogging and shuffling across the grass and playing catch from a distance of about 100 feet. He did some swinging on a tee, too, just to test out a leg that had almost given out on him thanks to a pinched nerve in his back.

The verdict? He's almost back.

"His hope is that he can maybe get into a game in a couple of days," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We'll see. The good news is that he's actually thinking about getting in a game in a couple of days. ... That might be a little bit quick for me. We'll see. The fact that he thinks he can get into a game means he's going in the right direction."

Green spent much of the season as the Red Sox's starting shortstop, an emergency fill-in for Jed Lowrie (wrist) and Julio Lugo (unacceptably bad defense) until Theo Epstein acquired defensive whiz Alex Gonzalez in mid-August. He's had his moments -- his walk-off home run on Father's Day remains one of the season's indelible memories -- but his batting average had slid from .321 in May to .233 in June and .143 in July.

Lowrie, on the other hand, has endured more than his share of setbacks since he opened the season as the team's starting shortstop. He underwent surgery on his left wrist in late April and has spent all season trying to work his way back. The switch-hitter has no issues hitting righthanded, but he twice has felt numbness in his hand after a lefthanded checked swing and had to shut his rehabilitation back down.

He pinch-hit against Angels lefty Brian Fuentes a week ago and hit a rope down the third-base line that almost went for a double. He made his first start in six weeks against Yankees lefty CC Sabathia on Saturday, and he hit a fly ball to the warning track in center field, another encouraging sign.

But Lowrie and the Red Sox aren't yet ready to risk seeing him swing lefthanded. He has no limitations in the field or hitting righthanded, but he's not nearly as comfortable hitting lefty as he is hitting righty.

"Like I said from the beginning, I told them that hitting righthanded is fine," he said. "(Hitting lefthanded) is progressing. It's kind of been baby steps, but I guess that's still progress."

That poses a problem for the Red Sox. Green won't be 100 percent when the playoffs begin -- but if Lowrie is the utility infielder and something happens either to Gonzalez or Dustin Pedroia, he might not be able to hit in consecutive games against John Lackey, Ervin Santana or Jered Weaver.

It's not the worst problem in the world, but it would save quite a bit of hand-wringing if Green can show this week that he's fully recovered.

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