Boston Red Sox: Marco Scutaro

Sox can breathe easy -- for a day

September, 6, 2011

On Monday, the sky was falling. On Tuesday, maybe things weren't so bad after all.

Such is the life of Red Sox fans these days.

A day after ace Josh Beckett left his start prematurely, talking of things popping in his ankle, and the Sox couldn't score for 11 innings, losing 1-0 to Toronto, the team turned the tables on the Jays, rolling to a 14-0 win, and got what on the surface seems like positive news on Beckett's injury.

The Red Sox hope Beckett won't miss more than a start or two, but will have a better idea of his status in the next few days, a team source told's Gordon Edes.

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Abelimages/Getty ImagesJon Lester is 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in his last five starts.
LESTER DELIVERS: The Sox hadn't gotten word on Beckett's ankle when the game started and for the good of their collective psyche, their fans needed to see Boston's last big gun standing -- Jon Lester -- perform at or near the top of his game. Lester delivered, allowing just three hits and walking one while striking out 11 over seven innings.

Lester improved to 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in five starts since losing at Minnesota on Aug. 10. He is the first Sox lefty since Lefty Grove in 1936 to give up one run or fewer in five straight starts.

"He threw strikes, he threw his cutter with some power to it," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "That was good to see."

Of course, the fact that he had a sizable lead before he even took the hill couldn't have hurt.

HEAVY HITTERS: The Sox jumped all over young Luis Perez, scoring four runs in the first inning. Perez was gone before the end of the third, having allowed eight runs and 10 hits.

Even with Perez gone, the Sox kept hitting and scoring. It was 13-0 after five, and according to Elias, it was the first time in franchise history they scored two or more runs in each of the first five innings.

Every starter had at least one hit except Dustin Pedroia, who hit the ball as hard as just about anyone but had nothing to show for it. David Ortiz and Marco Scutaro led the hit parade with four hits apiece. Scutaro knocked in four runs scored two more, and had three of the Sox's nine doubles.

"I've been hitting the ball good for three weeks and it seems like everything I hit is right at people or they're making diving plays," said Scutaro, who was batting sixth in the lineup, an unusual spot for him. "It's nice to have a day like this."

Francona said he moved Scutaro up to give the lineup better balance. It certainly paid off.

"He had a great night," Francona said. "He swung the bat terrific."

Ortiz had two doubles, two RBIs and three runs. Adrian Gonzalez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia each had a pair of RBIs, Salty hitting his 15th homer in the third.

CENTURY CLUB: Jacoby Ellsbury scored twice to bring his season total to 100 ... Nate Spears made his major league debut in the fifth, replacing Carl Crawford in left. Jed Lowrie, sidelined for the past two games with a sore left shoulder, came on in the seventh and played first base.

Scutaro gets another day off

September, 3, 2011
BOSTON -- Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro has been given the day off for the second consecutive game against the Texas Rangers. Jed Lowrie is starting at short.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said it’s not due to injury, he just felt it best to give him a couple days of rest.

“Wanted to give him one more day,” explained Francona. “Just to kind of let him take advantage of having Youk back, but we’ll play Marco tomorrow. These two days will really be good for him. I just think it’ll be good for him, he’s a little beat up.

Scutaro dealt with all sorts of upper-body issues last season, but he’s remained relatively healthy this summer. In 88 games he’s hitting .270 with five homers and 33 RBI.

“He always makes himself hold up,” Francona said. “He’ll play, but it’s also our responsibility to try to pick and chose, even when they don’t want to hear it, we just try to keep our guys healthy so they can be more

Notes: Scutaro due back Saturday

August, 19, 2011
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Boston Red Sox have suffered a string of injuries recently, depleting their lineup along the way. But manager Terry Francona said on Friday that at least one player is close to taking the field again.

Shortstop Marco Scutaro is expected to return to the Sox lineup on Saturday, Francona said before Friday night's game. Scutaro hasn’t played since Aug. 13 because of stiffness in his back.

“He’s OK, doing real well,” Francona said. “We’ll probably get him back in there tomorrow.”

The Red Sox are without David Ortiz (bursitis) and Kevin Youkilis, who went on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday with a sore back. Francona said Ortiz is still in a walking boot. He didn’t have an update on his return.

Ortiz previously said he expects to play again before the end of the Sox’s current eight-game road trip; that will most likely happen against the Texas Rangers.

“He keeps saying he feels pretty good,” Francona said, “so that’s good to hear, but that’s all we’ve really got.”

J.D. Drew, who hasn’t played in a month because of a shoulder injury, took batting practice before Friday's game and also shagged balls in the outfield. Francona said the club wants him to keep “mounting his reps and intensity” before they seriously consider a rehab assignment.

Gonzalez not bothered by neck -- Adrian Gonzalez is hitless in his last 13 at-bats but said his neck isn’t a factor. Francona previously said that Gonzalez’s stiff neck might be a reason for his recent power drop-off. He has just three homers in his last 52 games after hitting 15 homers in his first 69 games.

Gonzalez said his neck has “gotten better every day.”

“It’s not something I’m doing any treatment for,” Gonzalez said. “My neck has been fine. It did create some mechanical things I’m working through, but other than that it has been pretty good.”

Gonzalez said his biggest problem is timing. He said the only way to get it back is with at-bats during games. He still leads the majors with a .343 batting average.

“Hitters go through this sometimes,” Francona said. “It can’t not happen. He’s still hitting, what, .340. That’s a pretty lofty batting average. It’s hard to hit .360. He’ll figure it out. Maybe he figures it out in one swing, maybe he works his way back into it. It’s different all the time.”

Wakefield goes for win No. 200 again -- Tim Wakefield will go for career win No. 200 on Saturday against the Royals, making his fifth attempt this season. And while Wakefield is undoubtedly eager to put the milestone behind him, the young Royals hitters are just as eager to see a knuckleball.

The Royals' starting lineup on Saturday could include as many as four players 24 or younger, nearly all of whom were still toddlers when Wakefield picked up his first major-league win in 1992.

“It’s one of the pitches I’ve always wanted to hit,” said Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who added Trevor Hoffman’s changeup and Mariano Rivera’s cutter to his list. “Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball is Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball. Everybody knows about it.”

The young Royals won’t do anything extra to prepare for the pitch.

“I’ve never, never, never seen one before,” Royals catcher Salvador Perez said. “You just see the ball and hit the ball. This is the first pitch I’ve never seen. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Scutaro comes through under the wire

August, 8, 2011
BOSTON -- Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro was adamant about the fact that the reason he produced a four-hit night, including a leadoff double off Mariano Rivera in the ninth that led to the game-tying run to force extra innings, had nothing to do with fellow infielder Jed Lowrie set to be activated from the disabled list on Monday.

“Come on, man,” he said. “We’re just trying to win games here. It doesn’t matter who is in the lineup, we’re just trying to win games. I don’t care.”

Scutaro would never publicly admit it, but of course he wants to stay in the lineup, especially since Lowrie has proven he can produce when he’s playing every day.

[+] EnlargeMarco Scutaro
Elsa/Getty ImagesMarco Scutaro, who doubled off Mariano Rivera to start the Red Sox ninth, crosses the plate with the tying run.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said prior to Boston’s 3-2 walk-off victory over the Yankees that he doesn’t need to make that decision immediately because Lowrie’s not ready for that type of workload.

Lowrie just finished a five-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket during which he went 7-for-17 with four doubles, five RBIs and two walks. He deemed himself ready to go.

“He’s not ready to play every day, but he doesn’t have to,” Francona said. “He swung the bat well [in Pawtucket] and when guys are out for a while you just don’t know how they’re going to swing the bat. Jed has proven that when he’s healthy, he’s a really good hitter and when he’s not, that’s when he makes outs. I think it’s good we took the slower route and got him healthy because he can really help us.”

Scutaro’s performance helped Boston take two of three from the Yankees this weekend.

The Red Sox trailed 2-1 when Scutaro stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the ninth against Rivera and provided a double off the left-field wall. Prior to that at-bat, Scutaro had been 3-for-15 with one double, one home run and three RBIs in his career against the future Hall of Fame closer.

“The first couple of pitches he kind of painted away and I was looking for something middle in,” Scutaro said. “I noticed he liked to throw the front-door cutter after two strikes, so I was aware of that pitch and he left it in the middle.

“It’s not like I’ve got big numbers against him. The guy is probably the best closer ever. I’ve just been lucky, I guess.”

With Scutaro standing on second, Jacoby Ellsbury moved the runner to third with a sacrifice bunt before Dustin Pedroia supplied the sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2.

“They’re professional hitters. They pretty much know the situation and they go to the plate with an idea and they stay patient and look for a pitch to drive,” Scutaro said of Boston’s 1-2 punch at the top of the order.

That course of events allowed the Red Sox to win it in the bottom of the 10th on Josh Reddick’s walk-off single. But none of that would have happened without Scutaro's night at the plate.

“I felt good, man,” he said. “I’ve been battling the whole year with my mechanics and my timing. I’ve been inconsistent and today, during batting practice, I kind of felt something clicking in and I just took it to the game.”

Scutaro said he really couldn’t describe exactly what it was he felt during BP, but whatever it was it worked and he hopes he keeps going. If it does, he’ll keep his job as the starting shortstop.

Rapid Reaction: Indians 9, Sox 6

August, 1, 2011

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona said prior to Monday’s game against the Cleveland Indians that he knew it would only be a matter of time before reliever Daniel Bard would allow a run, ending the right-hander’s scoreless streak of 26 1/3 innings.

It happened Monday night.

Bard entered in the top of the eighth inning with the score tied at 5-5, and quickly allowed a leadoff single to the Indians’ Jason Kipnis. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a two-run homer to end the streak, giving Cleveland the lead en route to a 9-6 victory at Fenway Park.

The home run, Cabrera’s second of the night, ricocheted off a fan’s leg who was sitting in the first row of seats beyond the right-field wall, the ball bouncing back onto the field. The play was reviewed before it was ruled a two-run homer.

Bard allowed three runs on two hits and one walk in 1/3 of an inning.

It had been the longest active scoreless streak in the majors.

EXTENDED: Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the bottom of the third against Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin. It matches a season-high for Gonzalez, who is hitting .511 (24-for-47) with three doubles, one home run, 12 RBIs, 10 runs and four walks during the streak.

STREAKING TOO: Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia also extended his hitting streak, matching his career-high at nine games. He doubled in the second inning and showed off his strength with a broken-bat two-run homer in the sixth that tied the game at 5. He’s hitting .389 (14-for-36) with four homers and 12 RBIs over the stretch.

“I feel good. I feel comfortable at the plate,” Saltalamacchia said. “For me, just putting quality plate appearances together and feeling good at the plate is good, but it’s not as good if you don’t get the win.”

DOWN ON THE FARM: Infielder Jed Lowrie began a minor league rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket Monday night at McCoy Stadium. He went 0-for-2 and played shortstop for three innings. Lowrie’s been on the DL since June 17 with a shoulder strain and is scheduled to play for the PawSox Tuesday afternoon, and again Thursday and Friday nights.

ILL FEELING: Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro was removed from the game in the fourth inning due to a bout of dizziness and was replaced by newly acquired Mike Aviles. Scutaro was 1-for-1 with an RBI single. Aviles, who made his Red Sox debut on Saturday in Chicago, went 1-for-3.

"He was real lightheaded and had a little bit of an elevated heart rate," Francona said of Scutaro. "He was checked out here and checked out fine and we're going to get him a little more checked out tomorrow because that's not something to play with. He wasn't feeling real good during BP and then he started to feel better. He wanted to stay in, and he probably could have, but it's not something to play around with. It's not like it's a twisted ankle."

UP NEXT: Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett (9-4, 2.17 ERA) will make his 21st start of the season on Tuesday when he faces Cleveland lefty David Huff (1-1, 0.71). Beckett is 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts against the Indians in 2011. He’s 4-5 with a 5.04 ERA in nine career starts against Cleveland.

Welcome return, but ugly finish

July, 26, 2011

BOSTON –- The Red Sox gladly welcomed pitcher Jon Lester back to the starting rotation Monday night against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.

The left-hander, who had been on the disabled list with a lat strain since July 6, showed no ill effects and worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

He threw 89 pitches (55 for strikes) and had to settle for a no-decision. Lester exited with the game tied at 1-1 and it remained that way until top of the 14th inning when Kansas City pushed across a pair of runs en route to a 3-1 victory.

The start of the game was delayed 2 hours 21 minutes due to inclement weather and it ended with the Royals playing small ball to produce the winning runs.

Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer led off the 14th inning with a double to left and reached third on a single by Jeff Francoeur. With runners on the corners, the Royals’ Mike Aviles provided a sacrifice bunt that resulted in the winning run. Kansas City added an insurance run on Alcides Escobar’s sacrifice fly.

The Red Sox could not respond in the bottom of the 14th.

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN: Boston had a golden opportunity to end it in the bottom of the 12th. The Sox’s Josh Reddick led off with a single to right, and with one out, he reached third on a two-base error by Royals reliever Louis Coleman, who threw the ball away trying to pick Reddick off first.

This is where it gets interesting.

[+] EnlargeJosh Reddick
AP Photo/Charles KrupaJosh Reddick was the victim of Marco Scutaro missing a suicide squeeze sign in the 12th.
With the potential winning run 90 feet away, Red Sox manager Terry Francona called for a squeeze play. Reddick broke for home on a pitch that was a bit inside on batter Marco Scutaro, but it appeared Scutaro missed the sign and Reddick was caught 2-5.

"We just missed a sign," Francona said. "Thought it was an opportunity after action like that. We got half of it right, but we didn't get the whole thing right. Red got it and Scoot didn't. We had some other opportunities too. We kind of let them off the hook. I know there won’t be much sleep, but it'll be a tough one tonight."

"I didn't see the sign. It's my fault. Just missed the sign," Scutaro said.

"It just feels bad, man. It feels like your teammates, manager, the fans, just want to kill you. It's a bad feeling. But just come back tomorrow and win the game."

Scutaro followed with a two-out single, but was thrown out at second base trying to stretch the hit to end the inning.

INJURY WATCH: Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis was removed in the top of the eighth with right hamstring tightness. He was replaced with Yamaico Navarro. Youkilis suffered the injury in the sixth attempting to leg out an infield hit, but was thrown out 6-3. He limped into the dugout and immediately sat on the bench and was examined by team trainer Mike Reinold and Francona. Youkilis hobbled out to his position in the top of the seventh, but did not return after that.

Youkilis was examined after he was removed from the game.

“The exam was really good,” Francona said. “We’re fortunate. His heel hit the bag and it kind of gave way a little bit. He felt it in his hamstring and I think we’ll stay away from him [Tuesday]. It hopefully won’t be more than that. He had full range of motion, so he should be OK. He’s just beat up in a lot of areas.”

Navarro had an opportunity to end the game in the 13th inning with one out and the potential winning run on third base, but he popped out in foul territory to Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.

K-RAWFORD: Carl Crawford entered Monday’s game with a four-game hitting streak, going 7-for-15 with two doubles, three RBIs and two runs during that stretch. But he went 0-for-6 against the Royals, including four strikeouts. Crawford struck out with two runners on in the ninth and 11th innings.

DEFENSIVE GEM: Right fielder J.D. Drew is scheduled to land on the disabled list Tuesday, but replacement Josh Reddick has been spectacular of late both offensively and defensively. He turned in the defensive play of the game with a highlight-reel diving catch in the top of the 10th to rob the Royals’ Alcides Escobar of a base hit. Escobar lifted a lazy pop up to shallow right field just out of the reach of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Reddick came charging in and made the dramatic grab.

CATCH 22: Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a two-out single to right-center field in the bottom of the third. He finished the night 1-for-6. He’s now 36-for-97 (.371) with 16 RBIs during the streak.

MORE ZEROS: Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard extended his scoreless streak to 25 innings. The right-hander allowed one hit, was called for a balk, but retired the side in the top of the eighth. He’s allowed only 16 baserunners and 10 hits, while posting 24 strikeouts during his streak.

UP NEXT: The Red Sox send lefty Andrew Miller (4-1, 4.65 ERA) to the hill on Tuesday against Royals southpaw Dan Duffy (2-4, 4.58). Miller went 5 2/3 scoreless innings and earned the win in his last outing, a 4-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles last Wednesday. He allowed only two hits with six walks and three strikeouts. Despite Monday's 14-inning game, Francona believes the Sox will be fine from a pitching standpoint on Tuesday. Reliever Alfredo Aceves, who did not pitch on Monday, can be stretched out to fill the void if necessary.

Lowrie's shoulder woes persist; DL looms

June, 16, 2011
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie, whose left shoulder has been bothering him for nearly three weeks, may be headed for the disabled list after leaving Thursday's game in the first inning.

Lowrie said he felt like his shoulder came out of the socket while striking out with the bases loaded against Rays left-hander David Price.

"It's sore,'' Lowrie said. "It felt like it slipped out. It wasn't out, but it felt like it came out and went back in.''

Asked if he thought he might have to shut it down, Lowire said: "I don't know. I've never dealt with this before.''

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Lowrie would be re-evaluated by doctors back in Boston on Friday.

Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, who was at Thursday night's Pawtucket game, said infielder Drew Sutton came out of the game in the seventh inning, which suggests he may be on his way back to Boston. Marco Scutaro replaced Lowrie in the bottom of the first and played shortstop, singling in three at-bats.

Lowrie has been bothered by what the team has called a bruised left shoulder since colliding with outfielder Carl Crawford in Detroit on May 27.

The Sox administered an MRI last week in New York, and both manager and player reported it came back clean, though Lowrie said the shoulder still ached.

Thursday's strikeout extended Lowrie's hitless string to 0 for 15, and he is 1 for 17 on the trip.

Lowrie had three days off (two games) before returning to the lineup Wednesday night and going hitless in three trips. In the 10 games since the collision, Lowrie is batting .163 (7 for 43), his overall average dropping from .306 to .270.

"It certainly wasn't this sore,'' Lowrie said. "I don't know what's going on yet, either. I just know what I feel.''

Masterson a Francona favorite no more

May, 23, 2011
CLEVELAND -- Imagine Terry Francona's outlook on facing Justin Masterson if he didn't like the guy.

"It's hard not to love him, we all do. But I hope we beat his brains out," Francona said before the former Red Sox right-hander started the opener of a three-game series for the Cleveland Indians against Boston on Tuesday night.

"He's everybody's favorite," Francona added, noting that he has seen a change in Masterson since the big fella became a big part of Cleveland's rotation.

"He's pitching very aggressively, especially against left-handers, and he's always needed to do that. Because he's such an easy-going guy, people don't realize how much he competes -- and he's a competitor."

Masterson anticipates the challenge of facing seven lefties (including switch-hitters) in Boston's lineup. He threw his only career shutout against the Red Sox last June 9, a two-hitter, and is 2-0 with an 0.64 ERA in two starts against them.

"I have a lot of friends over there," Masterson said Sunday. "It will be fun."

Mastering a changeup to go with his fastball and put-away slider has helped Masterson go 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA in nine starts this year for the Indians, who entered play Tuesday with baseball's best record at 29-15, including 18-4 at home.

A three-game sweep of the Red Sox in the season's first week went a long way toward propelling the young Indians. It also put the Sox into an 0-6 hole that they have been clawing their way out of for five weeks.

"When we left here, nothing was going right," Francona said. "Now, it looks like we are winning the close games. Things have settled down nicely."

Boston has won 11 of 14 to improve to 25-21, just a half-game off the AL East lead.

Adrian Gonzalez's hot hitting has led the way. The first baseman went 4-for-4 Sunday night -- his second four-hit game in a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Fenway Park. His 65 hits and 41 RBIs lead the majors.

"When you see a really good hitter like Gonzo in the midst of a streak, it is fun to watch," said Francona, who doesn't expect a sudden cold front to hit. "I know he's hot, but it is more than that. He's not going to go away."

On the mend: Bobby Jenks, out since May 2 with a right biceps strain, threw a 25-pitch bullpen session.

"I felt fine," the right-handed setup man said. "Everything was good. We're right on schedule."

Francona said Jenks will throw again before Wednesday's noon matinee and that right-hander John Lackey will test his strained right elbow on Tuesday.

Marco Scutaro, out since May 8 with a strained left oblique, did some light infield work, but Francona said the shortstop is not quite ready to resume hitting. "We don't want to turn him loose until he doesn't feel it -- and he still does," Francona said. "He's not cleared to hit yet. Hopefully by the end of the week."

Francona says some people have a tendency to be a bit too critical of Jed Lowrie's defense as he fills in at short.

""He's been pretty good, very reliable," Francona said. "His foot speed probably is not the best, but he positions himself really well. At the plate, he gives you a professional at-bat every time."

Scutaro hopes to begin baseball activity

May, 16, 2011
BOSTON -- Infielder Marco Scutaro, who was placed on the disabled list on May 8 because of a left oblique strain, said he was hoping to be able to take some swings Monday after a week without baseball-related activity.

Scutaro was examined as rain fell at Fenway Park late Monday afternoon. He said he had done a little cardio work or leg work since going on the DL. The Sox didn’t want him to do anything of a rotational nature to his oblique for fear of further injuring the muscle and lengthening his stay on the sideline.

Scutaro said he was feeling less sensitive to the touch, but has been advised to go slowly in recovering from the injury.

“They said if [I] hurt it again and you mess it up, it could be two months,” said Scutaro.

Manager Terry Francona had very little news to report. This is what came from his media briefing:

* The team arrived from New York in the wee hours Monday, so the Red Sox did not have to report to the park as early as usual. They had to be ready for batting practice at 5 o’clock for the 7:10 game.

* Reliever Scott Atchison, who is on the Pawtucket roster, was spotted in the Boston clubhouse Monday. Francona said that there was a “miscommunication,” then said he was at Fenway “picking something up” and that there was no roster move to announce.

In other Sox-related news, color analyst Jerry Remy is expected back behind the NESN microphone for the first time since April 26. Remy was out with pneumonia.

Tito all but ordains Lowrie as starter

April, 27, 2011
BALTIMORE -- Terry Francona isn’t going to instruct team publicist Pam Ganley to issue an official press release announcing his intentions, but the Red Sox manager on Wednesday all but declared that Jed Lowrie has displaced Marco Scutaro as the team’s starting shortstop.

Scutaro started 10 of the team’s first 12 games at short, a span in which the team went 2-10. Lowrie has started 7 of the next 10 at short, and also started two games at third. He is in Wednesday’s lineup at short, batting seventh.

Lowrie is batting a team-high .400, and is also leading the club in on-base percentage (.424) and slugging percentage (.636). Scutaro is batting .213, raising his average over .200 with two hits on Sunday in Anaheim.

Francona had eliminated the possibility of Lowrie challenging Scutaro for the shortstop position before spring training, declaring that Scutaro was the starter and that Lowrie would be used at all four infield positions.

But it’s obvious that Lowrie’s performance this month has altered the manager's thinking, and on Wednesday Francona suggested for the first time that Scutaro, who at 35 is eight years older than Lowrie, may become the utility infielder, a role Scutaro filled for most of his big-league career.

It was only in the last two seasons, 2009 with Toronto and last year with the Red Sox, that Scutaro had become an everyday shortstop, an unusual progression for a player of his age.

“I thought coming into the year the right thing to do was play Scutaro,’’ Francona said.

To make a change at that stage, he said, would not have been fair to Scutaro, who had played hurt all last season.

“Going into spring training, I think I talked about it, I don’t think I’d’ want to play for me [if he made the change],’’ Francona said. “The guy went out and did what he was supposed to do. Jed had been hurt.

“I kind of said, ‘We view Jed as a starting player but not right now. Well, when you hit .450, I think it’s my responsibility to put him in the lineup, at least most, a lot of the time. I don’t think [Scutaro] likes it very much and I actually don’t blame him, because he’s done everything we’ve asked.

“But I’ve got a responsibility to do what is right.’’

Francona also acknowledged Wednesday that while Lowrie will still play third base when Kevin Youkilis sits or serves as DH, he may start using Scutaro to back up at second and short.

“That’s what I’ve got to figure out,’’ he said. “I said earlier in the year, because Jed moved around so much, he was the obvious guy to move around. But as Jed plays short, that’s something I probably have to think about. The first week a guy sits a little bit, that’s not the time [to approach him]. I got to pick my spots.’’

Rapid reaction: Red Sox 7, Angels 0

April, 24, 2011

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- And to think the Red Sox used to dread making trips to the West Coast.

What more could they want? Chartered flights, good weather, plenty of transplanted fans, great sushi and Mexican food, and opposing teams more than willing to make them feel as comfortable as possible. What’s a little jet lag compared to all that?

On Sunday, the Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels, 7-0, giving them five wins in six games on the Coast, having split a pair in Oakland.

Not once in four days did the Sox look up at the scoreboard in Angel Stadium and find themselves behind. They were required to work overtime to beat the Angels in the first game of the series, a 4-2 win in 11 innings, but the home team did not score a run off a Sox starter in 22 innings over the last three games of the series.

Jon Lester shut them out on four hits in six innings Friday. Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed one hit in eight scoreless innings on Saturday. And on Sunday, John Lackey gave up six hits in eight scoreless to beat his former team for the fourth time in four starts since they made little effort to keep him as a free agent following the 2009 season. Lackey didn’t glare up at the owner’s box a la Roger Clemens to John Harrington 14 years ago, but the message got there just the same.

In winning for the eighth time in their last nine games, the Sox continued what has been an extraordinary run of starting pitching. In that span, Sox starters have allowed two runs or fewer in all nine games, posting an ERA of 0.88 (6 ER in in 61 1/3 innings).

The weekend shutouts were the first consecutive shutouts by the Sox since June 19-20, 2007, against Atlanta, in games started by Josh Beckett and Julian Tavarez.

Other notables:

* The Angels have now lost 13 of their last 14 games against the Sox, including seven straight at Angel Stadium. This was Boston's first four-game sweep against the Angels since 1980.

* Carl Crawford hit his first home run, coming in his 20th game and 81st at-bat with the Sox. He also singled.

* Adrian Gonzalez had his second three-hit game for the Sox, with a double and two singles, and drove in two runs.

* The manager, Terry Francona, sat his hottest hitter, Jed Lowrie, and looked smart for doing so, as Marco Scutaro walked, singled twice and scored two runs.

* Jarrod Saltalamacchia ended the exercise of comparing his catcher’s ERA to that of Jason Varitek, as he has caught both of Lackey’s starts and Lester’s start on this trip with terrific results.

Is Lowrie on verge of unseating Scutaro?

April, 22, 2011
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The tea leaves -- and Jed Lowrie's hot bat -- suggest that the Red Sox are open to making Lowrie the team’s everyday shortstop ahead of Marco Scutaro.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona dropped hints to that effect before Thursday’s 4-2, 11-inning win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a game in which Lowrie singled and scored and drove in the game’s final run with a sacrifice fly after fouling off four two-strike pitches.

“As an organization, I think we think a lot of this kid,’’ Francona said. “We’d be crazy not to. But to just say he’s going to be the shortstop coming into camp, with all he’s been through, I don’t know if that would have made a whole lot of sense. He had the wrist injury, the mono. And maybe all along I think this spring Jed thought he had a lot to prove.’’

Lowrie is batting .432, the highest average in the American League for any player with more than 40 at-bats and second in the majors only to Matt Holliday of the Cardinals (.455). Small sample size? Since last July 21, when he came off the disabled list following an extended bout of mononucleosis that began in the spring, Lowrie has posted a .316/.393/.558/.951 batting line. Among big-league middle infielders with at least 200 plate appearances in that span, only Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies has a higher on-base average and slugging percentage.

Tulowitzki this past winter was so valued by the Rockies that he signed a 10-year, $157.75 million contract extension, even though he still had three years left on his contract.

"I think our evaluation of him for a long time was this kid controls the strike zone, he can hit the ball, not just for singles, he can get on base, he can hit the ball in the gap and now that he’s getting stronger, he's hitting the ball out of the ballpark,'' Francona said of Lowrie, who has 3 home runs and a dozen RBIs. "But we hadn’t seem him play for a long while.''

Francona also left little doubt that the team believes Lowrie can handle the position defensively.

"Jed's not blessed with ton of foot speed,'' the manager said, "but I think one thing as guys in uniform we need to be careful about is if you don't see the highlight reel play, that doesn’t mean the guy can't play a position. If they make the plays, that’s enough.''

Lowrie has started each of the last six games, including five at shortstop. Thursday night, he moved to third base in the second inning after Kevin Youkilis fouled a pitch off his left shin in a first-inning at-bat. X-rays on Youkilis were negative, but if Youkilis needs a day or two, Lowrie would remain at third and Scutaro would play short.

Lowrie, who just turned 27 last Sunday, is eight years younger than the 35-year-old Scutaro. He maintained this spring that he considered himself a shortstop and an everyday player, and wondered how much playing time he might get this season.

"Truthfully, I know if I just continue to prepare and do what I’m doing, I’ll be all right,’" Lowrie said the other day when asked if he was trying to make the shortstop decision hard for the Red Sox. “That’s not what’s motivating me. I’m motivated to go out there and help this team win and continue to be the good baseball player that I know I am.’’

Before the start of spring training, Francona had stated unequivocally that Scutaro was the team’s everyday shortstop, and stressed Lowrie’s versatility as a switch-hitter who can play all four infield positions. But until the last two seasons, when Scutaro was Toronto’s everyday shortstop in 2009 and served in the same role for the Red Sox in 2010, he was a utiilityman who played second, short and third and even spent a little time in the outfield.

So switching their roles would not leave the team deficient. Scutaro, who played with a pinched nerve in his neck and a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder last season and earned Francona’s respect for grinding through the injuries, is off to a slow start this season, batting just .195 (8 for 46).

Scutaro is in the last year of a two-year, $12.5 million deal. The club holds an option on 2012 for $6 million, and if they decline to exercise it, Scutaro could trigger a player option for $3 million to return. The Sox also could buy him out for $1.5 million.

Scutaro hit gives Sox breathing room

April, 11, 2011
BOSTON -- In need of a clutch hit on a night they stranded 16 runners on base, the Red Sox had an unlikely source deliver -- No. 9 hitter Marco Scutaro.

Entering Sunday night hitting .143, Scutaro ripped a bases-loaded, two-run double to left field in the seventh inning of the team’s 4-0 win over the Yankees. Only then could the sellout Fenway crowd of 37,861 exhale.

The Red Sox had been holding on to a 1-0 lead, squandering numerous opportunities to pull away, until Scutaro delivered.

“It was a big hit, not just for us, but for him,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “It was a big spot in the game, kind of blew it open a bit. The way we were pitching tonight, that was all we needed.”

Starting pitcher Josh Beckett was the story, no doubt, twirling eight terrific innings in which he allowed just two hits. Beckett was working with little margin for error until Scutaro pulled a 1-and-0 fastball to left field, knocking reliever Joba Chamberlain out of the game.

“To stay out of a position where a mistake costs you a chance to win the game, it spreads it out and gave us a little breathing room,” manager Terry Francona said.

Scutaro was on base in each of his four plate appearances, walking twice and singling against starter CC Sabathia before the big double against Chamberlain. After the game, he said he’s still working on his timing at the plate, which has been a factor in his slow start.

In the seventh inning, David Ortiz led off with a walk, and one out later J.D. Drew also walked, before Jason Varitek’s single loaded the bases. Scutaro laid off a down-and-away slider before getting the pitch he was looking for -- a 1-and-0 fastball.

“It feels good, especially after all the men on base we’ve left lately,” Scutaro said.

Lowrie ready for anything

April, 9, 2011
BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona has referred to Jed Lowrie as a super-utility player.

The switch-hitting infielder can play all four positions and he will be relied upon this season in every role. He wants to be in the lineup on a daily basis, but he understands the situation.

Francona gave shortstop Marco Scutaro today off, and Lowrie will be starting and batting seventh.

“I prepare myself every day. Nothing changes with what I’m doing,” Lowrie said.

It’s his second start this season and even though the Red Sox know exactly what kind of performance they’re going to get when Lowrie’s in the lineup, he still wants to prove his worth every time he plays.

“You go out there every day doing that,” he said. “I’m not going to go out there and try to be someone I’m not. This is a game you have to prove yourself every day, whether you’re a Hall of Famer or a rookie. You have to prove who you are every day.”

Camp talk: On Dice-K, Scutaro and Pujols

February, 18, 2011
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Greetings from the Fort, where it’s been years since the weather was this perfect for the first week of camp. I trust that doesn’t rank as rubbing it in, on a spring-like day back in New England.

Friday’s schedule includes physicals for the position players who haven’t taken them and another day of regular workouts for the pitchers, with Daisuke Matsuzaka and the bullpen crew all scheduled to throw side sessions today.

Marco Scutaro chatted with reporters for a short time this morning, and drew laughs when he said he celebrated Terry Francona’s declaration that he was the starting shortstop by throwing a barbecue.

The good-natured sarcasm continued when asked how he reacted to the raft of Sox signings this winter. “Another barbecue,’’ he said.

Had a lot of responses to my column suggesting that the Red Sox, as preposterous as it sounds, might enter the Albert Pujols sweepstakes next winter, if it gets to that point. Riled up some Cardinals fans, while many of you also pooh-poohed the idea that Pujols would be willing at this stage of his career to be a DH. I said as much, but also suggested that if the price is right, Pujols would be a midfielder for Liverpool, too.

Thinking about Pujols reminded me of how close the Red Sox came to drafting him back in 1999. The story was told to me while I was working for The Boston Globe by Ernie Jacobs, a former homicide
investigator in Wichita (he worked on the notorious “BTK’’ case) who became a Red Sox scout.

There was a kid playing shortstop for Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City. In his first game, he turned an unassisted triple play and hit a grand slam. His name was Albert Pujols. He had moved to the area from the Dominican Republic when he was 16, the youngest in a family of 11 children.

Jacobs, in his first year as a full-time scout, fell in love. Not everyone did.

"First of all," Jacobs told me some years ago, "his body wasn't great back then. Plus, people weren't sure how old the guy was. You assumed what he told you was true, but he wasn't a great body, and his swing was a little long.

"But he had big-time power, and you can't walk away from that kind of power. You do your homework, you study his aptitude, you figure you can fine-tune his swing and get his body better. His hands were very good for his size, and he had a good arm, playing shortstop."

Jacobs urged the Sox to send a cross-checker. Wayne Britton, the scouting director at the time, passed. That year, the Sox drafted Rick Asadoorian, a local kid, with their No. 1 pick.

Still, before the 10th round, the Sox called and told Jacobs they would draft Pujols with their next pick -- if he met a couple of conditions.

"They called and told me they were going to draft Albert for me," Jacobs said. "But there were a couple of stipulations. First of all, can he play third base for Lowell? I told them, 'Sure he can.' Then they said, 'He's got to be a quick sign.' I said, 'We may have a little issue.' I remember the kid saying he wanted to sign for $100,000, $150,000. I had a feeling that it wasn't going to take that, but it might drag out all summer."

Jacobs tried to reach Pujols by phone, but couldn’t reach him.

"The Cardinals took him three rounds later, and the rest is history."

Pujols confirmed for me a few years ago that he knew of Boston’s interest. “They came close,’’ he said.

Jacobs does not say he expected Pujols to join Manny Ramirez as one of the foremost right-handed hitters of this generation. But he lamented what might have been.

"I lost my Hall of Famer," Jacobs told me, "in my very first year."