Healthy Scutaro looks forward to 2011

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Healthy Scutaro looks forward to 2011

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- To his right, Marco Scutaro watched Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis go down with injuries. To his left, he saw Mike Lowell struggle with ongoing hip issues that eventually sent him into premature retirement.

In the outfield, prospects and journeymen filled the void after first Jacoby Ellsbury, then Mike Cameron landed on the DL with season-ending surgeries.

Scutaro could have easily joined them. He dealt with a nerve issue in his neck, resulting in weakness in his left forearm. Later, inflammation in his right rotator cuff dogged him.

Still, Scutaro played on. Limited, restricted, and in pain. But recognizing the manpower shortage the 2010 Red Sox were already faced with, Scutaro bravely remained on the field and in the lineup.

"He played the whole last two months despite the injuries," said manager Terry Francona. "He could have shut it down any time he wanted to and nobody would have said a word. And his numbers probably suffered because of it; he probably walked less because of it."

The pinched nerve in his neck in the first half was bad enough.

"It was like pretty much swinging with one arm," he recounted.

But in the second half, with his shoulder throbbing, Scutaro dealt with pain almost every day.

"I showed up one day and I swung and felt it," he said. "In the beginning, it wasn't as bad to throw. But it got worse. The first half was one arm, and then when it looked like I was getting my strength back, I had a problem with the other shoulder. All year, I had something. Hopefully, this year, I'll stay healthy."

By the final weeks of the season, with Pedroia out and Jed Lowrie available, the Sox shifted Scutaro to second base, to cut down on the strain resulting from throws on the other side of the diamond.

His offensive numbers were, on the surface, unaffected -- his .275.333.388 line was consistent with his career numbers of .267.336.385 -- but, in fact, they were down from his .282.379.409 stats from 2009, when he was in Toronto. In addition, his defensive statistics at shortstop took a dive; his errors rose from 10 to 18, and his range factor dropped from 4.39 plays per nine innings to 3.83.

Doctors told Scutaro wouldn't require surgery and instead gave him a rehab program to strengthen the shoulder with weight work and other exercises.

"It's pretty much back to normal," said Scutaro. "I just have to keep doing my routine two or three times a week."

It's Scutaro's hope that in this, his second season with the Red Sox, he can finally be the player he's capable of being.

"It's nice to feel the way you normally feel," he said. "Even if the results aren't there, at least when you show up at the ballpark, you feel like you have a chance to compete. But last year was kind of tough. There was some days when I would wake up and it was like, 'Oh my God -- I have to do so much stuff just to get loose.'

"In the end, I pretty much couldn't throw the ball more than 10 feet. I couldn't do too much stuff during BP, I had to just get my body ready for the game."

When Lowrie -- himself struck by injuries last year and the season before -- began to drive the ball in the second half, there was some speculation that a competition could be held this spring to determin the starting shortstop job.

After all, Lowrie compiled a .907 OPS after returning to action in late July, and offers more extra-base capability than Scutaro. But at the annual Boston Baseball Writers Dinner in January, Terry Francona cut off the shortstop debate by declaring: "Scutaro's our shortstop."

Word of the announcement reached Scutaro at his off-season home in Miami.

"That's good to hear," said Scutaro. "When the manager says that, that gives you a lot of confidence. That makes you feel good. I was in Miami, watching TV and I heard the news?"

Scutaro was asked for his reaction the news, and tongue planted firmly in cheek, said: "We had a barbeque at night and celebrated like crazy."

Francona's decision may have been influenced in part by the respect Scutaro earned in the clubhouse last year by continuing to play hurt.

"We wanted to make sure he understood we didn't forget his sacrifice," he said. "He took at-bats because he cared and wanted to be a good teammate."

"If you see a guy going out there every day and doing stuff (while injured)," said Scutaro, "I do gain respect for him . . . For me, it was tough. But it made me feel better to stay in the lineup pretty much all year."

"He kind of ran himself into the ground last year," said Francona. "I don't know that we had a choice. But we do appreciate it.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play through injuries, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to hit better as the designated hitter, or give someone else a chance in his place.

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage.

Putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that he can heal up, or at least attempt to, would be reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup, as has been the case the last two days — you're hampering the roster.

Ramirez was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday because of his left knee, which was hit by a pitch Sunday. He’s been bothered by his shoulders all season.

“He’s improved today. He’s responding to treatment,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday of Ramirez’s knee. “He’s still going through some work right now. Would get a bat in his hand here shortly to determine if he’s available to pinch hit tonight. Prior to yesterday’s game, day to day, and still in that status, but he is improving.”

The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else. Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time should be on the table.

When it comes to lineups vs. lefties, Farrell might be thinking the same way. 

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’d consider playing someone at DH other than Ramirez for performance reasons.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Farrell said. “Where he was so good against left-handed pitching last year, that’s been still a work in progress, for lack of a better way to describe it. So we’re always looking to put the best combination on the field.”

A right-handed hitter, Ramirez is just 5-for-35 (.143) vs. lefties this season, after hitting .346 against them a year ago.

On the flip side: in the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage overall. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season vs. all pitchers.

“You know, the one thing you can’t completely turn away from is what Hanley did last year,” Farrell said. “While I know that’s last year, we’re still working to get some increased performance from him. I think he’s still a key member in our lineup. The presence he provides, the impact that he’s capable of. And yet, we’re still working to get there.”

Farrell said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint a particular reason for Ramirez’s struggles vs. southpaws.

“No,” Farrell said. “There’s been extensive video review. There’s been extensive conversations with him. There’s been stretches, short stretches, where he’s I think shown the approach at the plate and the all field ability to drive the baseball. That’s been hit and miss a little bit. So, we’re just trying to gain a consistency that he’s been known for.”

Mitch Moreland's been playing with a fractured big toe in his left foot. After he homered and had another impactful night Monday, Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In [Moreland's] most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Asked about that comment a day later, Farrell shot down the idea he was trying to reach Ramirez or anyone else with that remark about playing hurt.

“No,” Farrell said Tuesday. “I respect the question, but that was to highlight a guy who has been dealing with a broken toe, continues to perform at a high level and to compliment Mitch for the way he’s gone about it.”

It doesn't matter why Ramirez isn't producing, at a certain point. Either he is or he isn't. If not, they need to be willing to give someone else an extended look, whether it lands Ramirez on the DL or simply the bench.

Farrell suspended one game for last week's run-in with umpire

Farrell suspended one game for last week's run-in with umpire

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell has been suspended one game because of Saturday night's scream-fest with umpire Bill Miller, when Farrell objected to a balk call made on Fernando Abad that led to an Angels run in the seventh inning.

Farrell is to serve the suspension on Tuesday night. He has also been fined.

Farrell and the umpire couldn't have been much closer to each other's face, and some contact was made.

"There was contact made, yes. I didn't bump him though," Farrell said a day later. "The tip of my finger touched his shirt."

Miller has ejected Farrell three times, more than any other umpire.

"No, honestly I didn't even know that, someone's brought to my attention that it's been the third time," Farrell said Sunday when asked if that history played in. "I don't have a tote board of who's done what and how many times