McAdam: Shortstop uncertainty returns with Lowrie


McAdam: Shortstop uncertainty returns with Lowrie

By Sean McAdam 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 Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Mookie Betts' injury likely just a short-term issue


Mookie Betts' injury likely just a short-term issue

BOSTON -- After leaving Friday night’s game with right knee soreness, structural damage has been ruled out regarding Mookie Betts, but he could still be out for a bit.

Testing was done on Betts’ knee, removing any doubt of a deeper issue, revealing it was just build-up of fluid, causing swelling in his knee.

“Day-to-day is the status. It may take a couple for him before he’s back to us.” John Farrell said. “Everything points to this being a short-term situation.”

Betts explained that his condition had improved from Friday night, but -- much like Farrell -- doesn’t know how quickly he can bounce back. He wouldn’t make a definitive statement on whether or not he’d be available Sunday.

“It feels pretty good now,” Betts said. “We’re going to do some treatment on it, make sure everything is good and hopefully get back out there.”

Betts joins the list of pivotal players unavailable in Saturday’s game, including Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara who are both on the DL.

Farrell couldn’t commit to a timetable for when he expects Uehara should be back, but hopes he’ll be available during the regular season.

“We’re hopeful of that,” Farrell said when asked if he thought Uehara would be back before the postseason. “There’s no number of day’s that says Koji’s going to put a ball back in his hand . . . To give you a time frame, it’s too early to tell.”

Kimbrel, on the other hand, has bounced back well, and is expected to throw his first bullpen Sunday or Monday. The hope is that he’ll throw twice off the mound before the trip to the West, which would set him up for a simulated game.

“We need to get some PFP involved -- just some change in direction, fielding the position,” Farrell said on Kimbrel. “But in terms of amount of time missed, and that fact that he’s able to as get aggressive right now in long toss. I would think it would be on the shorter end of appearances if it’s even more than one. He feels very good. If he wasn’t making the ultimate decision medically [he’d] probably say ‘Give me the ball tonight.’ That’s how good he feels -- that’s encouraging.”


Saturday's Red Sox-Twins lineups: Betts out with knee soreness


Saturday's Red Sox-Twins lineups: Betts out with knee soreness

Mookie Betts is out of the lineup Saturday after leaving the game Friday night with knee soreness and Brock Holt moves into the leadoff spot for the Red Sox in Game 3 of their four-game series with the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park.

Manager John Farrell said Betts is day-to-day after the right fielder left the Red Sox' 2-1 loss in the fifth inning with pain in his right knee. There is swelling, but an MRI showed no structural damage.Michael Martinez will start in right on Saturday night. Betts had started in 93 of Boston's 94 games this season. 

Aaron Hill gets the start at third base for the Red Sox in place of Travis Shaw.  

Left-hander David Price (9-7, 4.36 ERA) makes his second start of the second half for the Red Sox. Price took the loss in a 3-1 defeat against the Yankees on Sunday night, allowing 11 hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innnigs. 

Right-hander Ricky Nolasco (4-8, 5.02) is on the mound for the Twins.

The lineups:

Eduardo Nunez SS
Robbie Grossman DH
Miguel Sano 3B
Brian Dozier 2B
Max Kepler RF
Kennys Vargas 1B
Eddie Rosario LF
Kurt Suzuki C
Ricky Nolasco RHP

Brock Holt LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Aaron Hill 3B
Sandy Leon C
Michael Martinez RF
David Price LHP

Farrell: Betts ‘day to day’ with sore knee


Farrell: Betts ‘day to day’ with sore knee

BOSTON — Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts left the game against the Minnesota Twins in the fifth inning on Friday night with soreness in his right knee.

Manager John Farrell said after game that Betts' had recently had "some treatment" for the knee and it has been something the team has monitored since the All-Star break. The Red Sox announced after Betts left the game that he was considered day-to-day. 

Betts, who led off the game with a home run for the second consecutive night, was replaced in right field by Michael Martinez in the top of the fifth. 

Betts, an All-Star Game starter, leads the Red Sox with 127 hits and is second on the team with 20 home runs and 63 RBI.

Associated Press material included in this story.