McAdam: A new look to the lineup?

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McAdam: A new look to the lineup?

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- A month before the start of spring training, Terry Francona moved to cut off any debate about one of the spots in his lineup before it got started.

Speaking to reporters before the annual Boston Baseball Writers Association awards dinner, Francona stated: "Marco Scutaro is our shortstop."

In Fort Myers, when the topic was broached again, Francona again made his thoughts on the subject known: Jed Lowrie would get some occasional playing time as Scutaro's backup, fill in around the infield and maybe even DH some.

But the point was clear: Scutaro was the starter.

That was then; this is now.

Now the Red Sox are desperate, or, at the very least, in search of some answers.

Scutaro is not the reason the Red Sox are 2-9, the worst record in Major League Baseball. And the team's problems are such that Jed Lowrie isn't about to fix them by himself, not unless he can suddenly A) pitch and B) help the rest of the lineup overcome its failings with men in scoring position.

That said, the Red Sox need to try something different.

Lowrie banged out two doubles Tuesday night in a frustration-filled 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. In his last three games, Lowrie is 6-for-9 with an RBI and a walk and has reached base safely 7 times in his last 10 plate appearances.

"I think when he's swinging it like this," said Francona, "you probably look for ways to get him in the lineup."

"The results are there," said Lowrie of his recent streak. "Thats always nice. But Im really, really happy with the way that Im working right now and my approach. Ive always believed that if I keep that approach the results will be there, and theyre there right now."

Francona isn't about to make any dramatic announcement about Lowrie becoming the new everyday shortstop, because he isn't. Think of the situation like a job share, with, for the time, Scutaro's playing time being reduced somewhat and Lowrie's increased.

Over the winter, there were some in the organization who wanted Lowrie made the starter. He has a higher ceiling offensively than Scutaro, with the ability to drive the ball for extra bases.

The switch-hitting Lowrie showed that ability in the final two months of the season when he compiled an OPS of .907. Against lefties, Lowrie slugged .606.

That was enough to catch the Red Sox' attention and remind them of Lowrie's potential. His problem had been one of durability. Between a hand injury and a case of mononucleosis, Lowrie had been unable to stay (or even get) on the field for the previous season-and-a-half.

But Francona believed he owed Scutaro the courtesy of retaining his job at the start of the year if only for the toughness that Scutaro showed during the injury-plagued 2010 season.

Scutaro continued to play, often in great pain, despite shoulder, neck and arm issues. With the right side of the Red Sox infield already decimated by injuries, Scutaro felt it was his duty to remain in the lineup even though he was far from 100 percent.

Francona couldn't overlook that dedication and knew that putting the job up for grabs in spring training would be unfair to Scutaro.

"If I did that," said Francona said during the spring, "I wouldn't want to play for me."

The manager also recognized that making Scutaro compete for his job in spring training would have an impact in the clubhouse. Scutaro earned his teammates' respect, too, last season, and allowing Lowrie the chance to take the position away would be sending the wrong message to the rest of the clubhouse.

Now, however, Lowrie's going to get a chance to get into the lineup, at least on a more consistent basis than he has been.

Who knows how long this will last? And who knows what Lowrie will do with his opportunity? Not to mention there's no guarantee that one tweak to the everyday lineup will cure what ails the Sox.

But it's a start. And for a team unexpectedly in the division cellar two weeks into the season, it's something.

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

MLB ump saves woman attempting to jump from Pittsburgh bridge

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MLB ump saves woman attempting to jump from Pittsburgh bridge

PITTSBURGH -- John Tumpane can't explain why he approached the woman as she hopped over the railing of the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Wednesday afternoon.

The woman told Tumpane she just wanted to get a better view of the Allegheny River below. The look on her face and the tone of her voice suggested otherwise to Tumpane, a major league baseball umpire in town to work the series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays.

So the 34-year-old Tumpane reached for the woman even as she urged him to let her go.

"It was just pure instinct," Tumpane said . "You hear kind of stories of this all the time, different scenarios, people aiding and situation where I was lucky enough to be there to help and try to think of everything I could do, hanging on to her. At times she wanted to go the other way. I was like, 'not on my watch, please.' We were just hanging on."

And saving a life.

Tumpane secured one of her arms. A bystander walked up and grabbed the other while another -- Mike Weinman, an employee for the Rays -- clutched her legs and pinned them to the railing while Tumpane mouthed to someone in the crowd to call 911.

What followed were chaotic moments of panic, fear and ultimately, grace.

"I couldn't tell you how long we were waiting for everyone else to get in place," Tumpane said. 'Obviously another power comes into be when you're hanging on and you know what the alternative is of you letting go and not having other people to help you."

Tumpane, Weinman and the third volunteer clung to the unidentified woman until emergency responders arrived. A police boat raced up the river to the iconic yellow bridge named for the Pirates Hall of Famer who died on Dec. 31, 1972, when a plane making humanitarian deliveries to earthquake victims in Nicaragua crashed. Now, 45 years later a crowd thrust together by fate brought a complete stranger back from the brink. Together.

"Once they were able to secure her, we were able to talk her back to help us out and we got her back on this side," Tumpane said. "After that I went up to her, she said, 'You'll just forget me after this' and I said, 'No, I'll never forget you.' This was an unbelievable day and I'm glad to say she can have another day with us and I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time."

Tumpane, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, got into umpiring as a teenager, made his major-league debut in 2012 and received his full-time MLB commission in 2016, stressed he's no hero.

"I just happened to be there," he said. "I think I've been a caring person in my life. I saw somebody in need, and it looked like a situation to obviously insert myself and help out."

The aftermath was a bit surreal. After the woman was taken away, Tumpane called his wife, his arms still shaking.

"Not too many times you call your wife and say you helped save somebody's life," he said. "A really special moment."

One that stayed with him even as he prepared to call balls and strikes behind home plate Wednesday night. During breaks in the action his eyes would drift to the bridge just a few hundred feet behind the center field wall at PNC Park.

"It's also hard when you stand back behind home plate and look and you see the bridge in the distance, In between innings and whatnot, just thinking of how things could have maybe been," he said. "Glad it was this way."

Tumpane has no experience in crisis management or suicide prevention. He's spent 16 years living the nomadic life of an umpire. Asked what was going through his head while he tried to coax the woman back to safety, Tumpane just shrugged his shoulders. How do you explain the unexplainable?

"I happened to be in the right spot at the right time," he said. "Tried to be as comforting as I could and talk her through it. Thankfully that was the outcome."