Not since Jose Offerman and Nomar Garciaparra patrolled the infield at Fenway Park have the Red Sox begun a season the way they plan to this year: with a double-play duo, having been teamed up and tested in the previous season.
While guys like Todd Walker, Mark Bellhorn, and Orlando Cabrera have had their memorable moments at Fenway, some other ex-Sox middle infielders have been more than forgettable: Offerman, Rey Sanchez, and certainly Edgar Renteria.
The familiarity at second and short this season will provide a welcome change for the Fenway Faithful.
The fact that Dustin Pedroia and Julio Lugo have played together before could have a positive effect on the defense. Last season the two combined to commit just 25 errors—although this is a far cry from the combined 11 committed by Mark Loretta and Alex Gonzalez the year before.
It’s true that perennial Gold Glove candidates are not necessarily known for their offense.
Pedroia is still making a name for himself as a defensive second baseman. At just 5'9", the former Rookie of the Year still has a long way to go before he’s able to command the respect of American League hitters.
A shortstop by trade, Pedroia began playing second base in 2005 at the AA level when the Red Sox determined there would be no need for him at shortstop at the Major League level.
His biggest MLB play came on September 1st, making a diving stop of a Miguel Tejada ground ball to preserve Clay Buchholz's no hitter. It has been speculated that the exposure he garnered for that play secured Pedroia the Rookie of the Year Award.
Strangely enough, Lugo was brought to Boston for his offensive abilities.
His defense is considered average for a shortstop, but his speed gives him a larger range than many of his counterparts. He's above average when it comes to balls in the air, never afraid to make a big jump to make any kind of play.
Lugo put up his best career defensive numbers in 2002. This success may have been partly due to the fact that he’d been partnered in the same double-play duo two years running.
In 2005—the last time Lugo spent a full season with the same team he’d been part of the previous season—his errors decreased, his fielding percentage increased, and he completed more double plays. Statistics show that consistency is beneficial to Lugo.
The Red Sox have Gold Glove winners at the corner infield positions. A sophomore plays second base. A player anxious to prove himself will man shortstop.
There are no questions when it comes to Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis. Perhaps any questions about the Red Sox middle infield can be answered with familiarity, consistency, stability.