McAdam: Shortstop uncertainty returns with Lowrie

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McAdam: Shortstop uncertainty returns with Lowrie

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jed Lowrie returned to the Red Sox lineup Monday night, having served a seven-week stint on the disabled list because of a shoulder injury.

Perhaps not so incidentally, Marco Scutato, who had held down the starting shortstop job both early in the season and then while Lowrie was sidelined, enjoyed his second straight multi-hit game.

Scutaro, who banged out four hits Sunday night against the Yankees, added three more in the Red Sox' wild 8-6 win over the Minnesota Twins.

What's a manager to do?

On the face of it, it seems odd that the Sox have gotten more than two-thirds through the season -- and posted the second-best record in baseball -- without a clear decision being made about the identity of the starting shortstop.

Scutaro began the season as the starter at the position not so much on merit, but rather, loyalty. Scutaro had played hurt for much of 2010, through a shoulder injury and and an elbow injury, and stayed on the field, knowing that two-thirds of the rest of the infield -- Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis -- was already laid up.

Terry Francona thought he owed it to Scutaro to give him the starter's spot in the spring, a reward for the toughness and dedication Scutaro showed last season when the Sox were decimated.

That didn't last long, however. Scutaro started slowly while Lowrie, getting the odd start at short or third, began roping line drives while the remainder of the Red Sox lineup slumbered.

As Francona noted Monday: "Shoot, he was our best hitter for the first six weeks (of the season).''

Eventually, that distinction earned Lowrie the regular shortstop job, though Francona, as is his habit, never directly made that announcement.

But then in late May, Lowrie collided with Carl Crawford on a pop-up in Detroit and suffered a pinched nerve in his shoulder which began to affect his game.

He lost strength in his shoulder and his hitting suffered. By mid-June he was back on the disabled list for the third straight season.

The timing could not have been worse for Lowrie, whose career has been slowed by these sort of injury interruptions. Two years ago, it was a hand injury. Last year, he missed the first half of the season with mononucleosis.

"I was feeling great,'' said Lowrie Monday. "That was probablythe hardest part about this one, because I was feeling pretty good at the plate. Just a stroke of bad luck. You continue to push through this, continue to trust my approach and I know Ill be fine.

There's no way to prove, meanwhile, that Scutaro's recent hot stretch at the plate is a reaction to Lowrie's return, but it's hard not to link the two.

Scutaro -- who himself spent time on the DL in May with an oblique strain -- is a proud veteran who undoubtedly believes that he's done nothing to warrant losing playing time. After all, haven't the Sox compiled the best record in the league with him as their starting shortstop?

The two aren't merely competing for the starting job the rest of the way, but also, the job next season. Top prospect Jose Iglesias hasn't shown he can hit Triple A pitching, never mind major league pitching, and probably needs additional seasoning at Pawtucket. Even his defensive game, sparkling as it can be on occasion, requires some refinement.

Francona, for now, isn't tipping his hand.

"We can kind of split it up,'' he said of the shortstop job, "because Jeds not ready to be out there every day. We can look at day game, night game, matchups, and hopefully get the most out of both of them.

Perhaps the two can push each other. Perhaps the combination of Scutaro's steadiness and Lowrie's offensive upside is the perfect one for the short-term.

But it sure seems strange that, with seven weeks to play, a team on pace to win 100 games hasn't yet decided who will be its starting shortstop for Game 1 of the playoffs.

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

Robbie Ross Jr. is getting elbow checked out

Robbie Ross Jr. is getting elbow checked out

Red Sox reliever Robbie Ross Jr.'s tough 2017 has reached a potentially scary moment.

Expected to be the team's lead lefty out of the bullpen, Ross has twice been demoted and struggled in the majors. Now, he's on the disabled list at Triple-A Pawtucket with inflammation in his throwing elbow — a health situation that might explain why he wasn't pitching well in the big leagues.

The Red Sox expect to know more about Ross' situation later in the week.

Ross hasn't pitched in game for Pawtucket since he was most recently optioned. If the 27-year-old was indeed hurt in the majors, it's possible he could retroactivley wind up on the major league disabled list. Ross was demoted May 19, and is on the DL retroactive to May 25. 

Per BrooksBaseball.net, Ross sat at 93 mph with his fastball on May 12. He dropped down to 92 in the following appearance, and the next two outings were at 91 mph. He averaged 94 mph in 2016.

Ross had a 7.00 ERA in eight major league appearances this year, striking out nine and walking five in nine innings. He posted a 3.25 ERA in a 2016 season where he established himself as a key member of the 'pen.

Ross said he was shocked when he was demoted for the first time this year. 

Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

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Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

BOSTON (AP)  Christian Bergman rebounded from a miserable start with seven shutout innings and the Seattle Mariners halted Boston's season-high six-game winning streak with a 5-0 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday.

Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer and Guillermo Heredia a solo shot for the Mariners, who averted a three-game sweep with just their second win in nine games. Seattle was shut out the first two games.

Bergman (2-2) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out two. He got a lot of help from his infielders when they turned a double play in each of the first four innings.

Three relievers completed the combined five-hitter, with closer Edwin Diaz getting the final three outs despite two errors by infielders.

Bergman was tagged for 14 hits and 10 runs over four innings in a loss his previous start.

Rick Porcello (3-6) gave up 11 hits, but only two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Seattle finished one off its club record for most double plays turned in a game.

After being shut out for the first 21 innings of the series, the Mariners moved ahead 1-0 in the fourth when Kyle Seager raced home from third after Porcello bounced a pitch that went over catcher Sandy Leon's right shoulder and onto the screen. Seager had doubled leading off and advanced on Danny Valencia's single.

Heredia homered over the Green Monster in the eighth and Cano sent his into the center-field bleachers an inning later.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, had another bullpen session Sunday because he wasn't happy with one a day earlier.

Red Sox: Manager John Farrell said 3B Pablo Sandoval, out since late April with a sprained right knee, will stay on his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket to get his "timing going" with more at-bats.

ROSTER MOVES

Seattle sent Saturday's losing pitcher, RHP Rob Whalen, to Triple-A Tacoma and brought up RHP Ryne Harper from the same club.

The Red Sox also made moves with pitchers, sending Saturday's winner, lefty Brian Johnson, to Triple-A Pawtucket and promoting RHP Blaine Boyer for a day. Boyer will go back down Monday when ace David Price is activated.

Boyer made his Red Sox debut, retiring the only two batters he faced.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Sam Gaviglio (0-1, 1.38 ERA) is set to make his third major-league start when they open a two-game series Monday at Colorado. RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-6, 4.50) is scheduled for the Rockies.

Red Sox: LHP Price makes his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox after being sidelined since early spring training with a strained left elbow.

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