Thursday, December 3, 2009

Scutaro deal leaves room for Lowrie

Marco Scutaro is on the verge of signing a two-year deal with the Red Sox, both and the Boston Herald are reporting. The career utility infielder likely will go into next season as the starting shortstop and No. 8 or No. 9 hitter in the Red Sox lineup.

But that doesn't mean the Red Sox have given up on Jed Lowrie.

The wrist surgery Lowrie underwent in April turned last season into a lost season for the versatile infielder. A couple of rehab stints and a couple of returns to the major leagues yielded nothing but a hard-hit infield single to help win a dramatic game against the Angels in September.

"It’s something that you hope goes away as soon as possible, but the reality of it is it hasn’t," Lowrie told the Providence Journal this week. "The wrist and hand is so important to playing the game of baseball that it can’t be swept under the rug. It has to be something that’s addressed."

Don't forget: Lowrie didn't go into last season as the clear-cut starter at shortstop. With Julio Lugo still under contract and reportedly balking at filling a utility role, it actually seemed pretty likely for most of the spring that Lowrie would begin the season as Terry Francona's utility infielder.

With Scutaro on board, it seems likely that Lowrie will begin next season in the same role until he can demonstrate that his wrist is healthy. (He's not even swinging a bat yet, he told the Journal.)

That might not, however, last for all that long.

The Red Sox think very highly of Lowrie. They see him as Dustin Pedroia Lite, in some ways, a capable defensive player who can hit 40 or 50 doubles a season with an on-base percentage up over .350. They wouldn't have waited so patiently for him last season if they didn't see him as someone who could play shortstop for them for the next 10 years.

Scutaro, on the other hand, is a No. 9 hitter whose ability to work counts is his greatest asset at the plate. The building hype swirling around him might have built up expectations among fans, but if he draws his share of walks and plays consistent defense, he'll have done his job.

And while Scutaro likely has the job this season, he'll be 35 years old on Opening Day in 2011 -- at which time a presumably healthy Lowrie still will only be 26. Scutaro is fully capable of playing as many positions as Lowrie is, if not more, and would be a perfect fit as a utility guy if Lowrie demonstrates that he's ready to take over the job at shortstop long-term.

(There has been quite a bit of talk about Jose Iglesias this winter and how he'll be ready to take over in 2012. That, though, only means we've all forgotten the lesson of Lars Anderson -- and while no one here is giving up on Anderson, he's a warning sign to those who assume highly touted prospects always will skip merrily through the minor leagues.)

Scutaro is the Red Sox shortstop for the short-term, a slick-fielding defender who can work counts and get on base with any shortstop in the game. A two-year deal for Scutaro, though, doesn't necessarily mean a two-year wait for Lowrie.

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