Ever since July 31, 2004, the Boston Red Sox have had issues with at least one position on their roster—shortstop.
It was on that Saturday afternoon when it was announced that the Sox had traded the face of the organization, Nomar Garciaparra. Since Garciaparra left, the Sox have been hard-pressed to find a replacement.
This season, the prospects for a dependable shortstop seemed best, as the Sox had two legitimate players, Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie, contending for the job in spring training. Lugo was the veteran, entering his third season with the Sox. Lowrie was a homegrown product, like Garciaparra, and had only one half of a season under his belt.
Lugo is considered a more offense-minded shortstop, although that may be due more to his downright terrible defense than anything else, as his offensive numbers are hardly remarkable.
Lowrie is a much more solid defender, having made no errors in 45 games at shortstop last season (compared to Lugo’s 16 in only 81 games), but he hasn't proven that he is anything more than an average hitter.
Although Lowrie played well as a rookie, it would be hard to bench Lugo, given his contract (four years/$36 million). Lugo injured himself during a very impressive spring training, and was forced to the disabled list to open the season.
To many, this was an excellent excuse to bypass Lugo’s lucrative contract and give the job to Lowrie. Fans were optimistic about Lowrie, and with good reason. They were hoping he would be the next in the long and impressive list of homegrown talent over the recent years.
However, he struggled mightily to open the season, recording only one hit in 18 at-bats.
After this abysmal start, it was discovered that he was playing injured, and he underwent surgery to fix a wrist injury that has been bothering him for some time.
The Sox now had to turn to their third-string option at shortstop. They were lucky to have Nick Green, who has been somewhat of a journeyman in his first few seasons in the majors. Green also had a very good spring training, despite not playing at all in the majors in 2008.
Now, almost three months into the season, Green has weathered the “shortstop curse” left behind by Garciaparra. His play has impressed manager Terry Francona so much that Green has taken over the everyday shortstop duties with Lugo back.
Through 53 games played, Green is sporting a very respectable .292 batting average to go along with four home runs and 26 RBI, while spending most of his time in the ninth spot in the lineup.
However, shortstop is not his natural position, and he struggled early in the year defensively. Thankfully, his defense has picked up of late.
Lowrie is now at triple-A Pawtucket rehabbing from the wrist injury, and he figures to rejoin the team by the All-Star break (just a few weeks away).
While Green, Lowrie, and Lugo have all played several positions at times throughout their careers, it is unlikely that all three will remain on the roster.
The remaining bench players—George Kotteras, Mark Kotsay, and Rocco Baldelli—are not going to be moved anywhere, which means that one of the three shortstop options will not be with the big league club in a few weeks.
The Sox will try to move Lugo at the trading deadline, but will be hard-pressed to find a new home for him, given his poor play and ridiculously over-priced contract.
Green has exceeded expectations not just for himself, but he has given the Sox better play from the shortstop position than they'd likely expected, regardless of which of the three players they put out.
The team would much rather have Lowrie and Green, but one of them will probably have to go. However, with his continued lack of play, Lugo may land on the disabled list with some kind of mystery injury, a la Daisuke Matsuzaka and his strained shoulder.
The Sox will try very hard to keep both Lowrie and Green on the team. What do you think they should do?
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