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

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:

QUOTES

* “(Matt) Bush has tremendous arm, but what we’ve seen . . . I don’t know that there’s anyone that throws a hard enough to get it by Mookie [Betts]. Just lightening bat speed . . . The dugout erupted when he caught it.” - Farrell said on Betts’ ninth inning homerun.

* “It was an outstanding comeback. Just a tremendous character win tonight by our guys. The work that our bullpen did tonight was just outstanding. ” - John Farrell said following the comeback win over Texas.

* “Koji comes back after a couple of rough outings and was vintage Koji here tonight.” - Farrell said on Uehara striking out the side in the ninth to earn the save

* “The homerun. Without that homerun, you don’t get to that wild pitch.” - Jackie Bradley said on what the Red Sox dugout was more excited about in the ninth.

* “Winning, to me that’s everything. I definitely want to go out there and throw the baseball better. I want to win myself. But at the end of the day I want the Red Sox to win.” - David Price said following the Red Sox win, despite his inability to keep the game close throughout the duration of his start.

NOTES

* David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his fourth inning single. He’s now 12 for his last 36 during his 10-game hitting streak.

* Sandy Leon’s ninth inning double was his 12th hit of the year. He’s now 12-for-22 (.545) to start his 2016 campaign. Four of his hits are doubles and he also has four RBI. 

* David Price’s 2.1-inning start is his shortest with Boston yet. The lefty gave up a season-worst 12 hits -- the most hits he’s given up since May 8th last season in a 6.1 inning start.

* Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homerun marks his third in the last ten games.

* The Red Sox improve to 22-3 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a homerun following his 13th homerun of the season.

STARS

1) Mookie Betts

Betts had over three hours between his two base hits, but his second proved the most important. He launched a 2-0 fastball into left center, tying the game in the ninth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley laced a homerun into the right field second deck to put Boston in striking distance at 7-4. In addition to knocking in two runs, he scored in the ninth after he walked, starting the ninth inning comeback. 

3) Koji Uehara

Despite struggling of late, Uehara was called on to close and struck out the side to seal the win. He was the final piece of the 6.2 innings of relief from the bullpen that came in one of Boston’s biggest wins of the year.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

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First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

First impressions of the Boston Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers:

Boston’s offense is always in striking distance.

The Red Sox had an uphill battle from the get-go thanks to David Price’s tough outing.

But somehow they took advantage of Texas’ equally bad pitching—that just happened to be more spread out than Boston’s bad pitching.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t earn a walk, or Sandy Leon doesn’t fight tooth and nail for a two-out double in the ninth, that Mookie Betts homerun can’t happen.

The Red Sox need another long outing from Steven Wright.

Obviously they’d prefer a strong performance -- but the knuckler may need to bite the bullet if he’s off Saturday night.

Boston’s bullpen has been used and abused of late, and needs some rest following the Chicago series and a 2.1 inning outing from Price.

Price continues to struggle against the Rangers in his career.

Even when he was able to walk out of the first with just the one run after a bases loaded double play, but couldn’t clamp down with two outs.

The biggest reason he struggled wasn’t his velocity—although it seemed down most of the night—but his location. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Texas is not the team you can do that with.

Although Price was bound to have a rough start, this start went worse than anyone could’ve anticipated. To say this was a bad start is putting it nicely.

Texas gave him a nice wake-up call. He still has room to grow.

Matt Barnes had a solid performance.

It wasn’t his best, but given the situation, he did well. First off, the Rangers are a very hot team and swing early in the count. Barnes left the ball up time after times, but only surrendered the one run.

Additionally, he entered the game far earlier than he’s used to -- in the midst of a blowout where his team was on the wrong end. That’s not an easy thing to walk into for a reliever, especially one who’s used to pitching late in tight ballgames.

He gave Boston a chance when the offense started to gain momentum.

Hanley Ramirez’s power continues to show.

Although he’s not hitting at the rate he did to start the year, Ramirez laced another homer against the Rangers Friday night.

This homerun may have been his most impressive, coming on a 1-2 slider away, driving it to straightaway center -- the deepest part of the ballpark.

Boston just saw what they look like when they almost blow games.

All season the talk around the league has been how explosive the Red Sox lineup is.

Well, the Rangers offense is right there with them. The league’s hottest team didn’t waist any time scoring, and had 15 hits before Boston pitching recorded an out in the fifth inning.

Although the Red Sox outslugged Texas late, they saw what a potent offense outside the AL East can do -- and how bad pitching can undo all of that.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar