Red Sox Preview: Jed Lowrie Might Not Be the Answer at Shortstop

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Red Sox Preview: Jed Lowrie Might Not Be the Answer at Shortstop
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Can Jed Lowrie make a case to stay on the field?

Those who have tuned in to the extensive spring training coverage NESN has dedicated to the Boston Red Sox over the last few weeks—which, at this point, rivals the treatment of most international disputes—have had the opportunity to observe highly touted shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias in his first extended big league camp.

And it's hard not to come away impressed.

Iglesias defines the word fluid, making the difficult plays look routine and the routine plays look smoother than Terry Francona's head. He's been hyped as a Gold Glove-caliber player and appears ready to live up to every word of the billing.

Meanwhile, the debate in many Red Sox circles this spring has centered on the shortstop position and who should start the season at the post: Marco Scutaro or Jed Lowrie.

Scutaro is the incumbent, having gamely played through injuries all of last year while batting in the leadoff spot for much of the campaign, while Lowrie is the upstart who finally turned in a month-long stretch of impressive play to close the 2010 season after years of injury-riddled silence.

Iglesias needs more seasoning—if only a little of it—before he becomes an everyday Major Leaguer, but it would be wise to pencil him in as the starting shortstop this time next year.

As for the debate regarding the here and now, it seems the prevailing thought is Lowrie will overtake Scutaro by sometime this season, wrestling the job away before we reach the dog days of summer.

And to that I say, not so fast.

Nobody's stock rose faster in a shorter time last year than Lowrie's. He put on a torrid September display that included some surprising pop, belting a handful of home runs in a short period of time.

And he's a switch-hitter who is widely regarded as a more than capable fielder.

So it's a no-brainer, right?

Wrong.

Let's remember that before Lowrie put it all together for one month—less than a month, really—he spent almost three seasons trying to find his way consistently onto the field.

He's spent almost all of his Red Sox career as a member of the walking wounded, with some nagging ailment or another keeping him off the field for extended stretches.

He's had plenty of chances to stake claim to the shortstop post as a revolving door of transient fill-ins wobbled through and hasn't come close to doing so.

When he took the field last year, he looked pretty good, but what assurance does anyone have that he can do it on a daily basis for an entire Major League season?

But there's more to it than just that. He was certainly impressive with the stick during the final stages of the year, but he hasn't proven he can do that for an entire season either.

Is it possible? Sure. But is it likely?

Be honest with yourself.

It would be great for the Red Sox if the Jed Lowrie we all saw in September was, indeed, the real Jed Lowrie. They are a much better team if he's healthy and contributing, be it as a utility infielder or the starting shortstop.

But he's being talked about as if he's spent six seasons building up a Major League resume. Television and print journalists have all but handed him the keys to the position, and I even heard a discussion at work this week about whether the Sox would choose him over Pedroia at second base if Lowrie turned in the kind of monster year many apparently expect.

But let's all take a deep breath and soak up some reality here.

Jed Lowrie has plenty of potential and could well turn into a full-time Major Leaguer. But he hasn't proven anything yet, be it the ability to stay healthy or the ability to produce over the long haul of a Major League season.

Everyone in Red Sox nation is hoping he can become a switch-hitting force in the middle infield before all is said and done.

But expecting it might be a little ambitious.

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