BOSTON -- Of late, there has been talk that Jed Lowrie might be able to unseat incumbent shortstop Marco Scutaro with a strong showing in spring training.
General manager Theo Epstein said last week that competition is a good thing for a club. But prior to Thursday's Boston Baseball Writers' Award dinner, manager Terry Francona seemed to back Scutaro.
"Lowrie comes up and gets an opportunity last year because a lot of guys were beat up,'' said Francona, "and he hits the ball all over the ballpark. He has the ability to play four different infield positions.
"Rather than worry about an infield competition -- Scutaro is our shortstop -- this guy Lowrie gives us something that I don't know many teams can say they have. He's a switch-hitter that can play first, second, third and short -- and play it a lot. He can play first base. He can play second base, third, short. He can play it for a week. He can play it for a day. He can play it for two weeks.
"That, at some point, is probably going to save us . . . And he's a switch-hitter, to boot. There's a lot to really like. Jed is certainly an everyday player, in our opinion. It may not happen in April. But that's not really a bad thing."
If nothing else, Lowrie is happy to be heading into spring training finally healthy, having been hampered the last two offseasons with a hand injury, then battling through mononucleosis last spring training.
"The difference is the quality of work I've been able to do,'' said Lowrie, "just because I've had my health, so I can really tell a difference in the quality of work I've been able put in. It seems like it's been so long (since I was healthy).''
Francona had positive health updates for a number of players who suffered
injuries last season.
''Adrian Gonzalez will be behind everybody else for sure (after October shoulder surgery),'' said Francona, "and it will be important, when we get down to spring training, to get a gauge on where he is. We don't want to set him back. If he's a little slower than everybody else, that's not the end of the world.
"We certainly want him playing, but he want him playing healthy. We can handle missing a guy for a week; we don't want to be missing a guy for two months.''
Kevin Youkilis, who underwent thub surgery last August, was nearly 100 percent in October, shortly after the season ended.
"He's been fine,'' said Francona of Youkilis. "Dustin Pedroia is doing terrific and Jacoby Ellsbury has a clean bill of health.''
Also on hand Thursday night were former Red Sox minor-leaguer Anthony Rizzo;
Sox outfielders Ryan Kalish and Darnell McDonald; pitchers Clay Buchholz and Rich Hill; pitching coach Curt Young; Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, and Detroit Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit.