Hand Lowrie that starting job

Evan BrunellFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2008

One plotline throughout this offseason will be the question of what will happen at shortstop: will the Red Sox install rookie Jed Lowrie into the role or go back to injured, mega-bust Julio Lugo?

Will they keep both and have them compete for the starting job like the Sox opted to do last offseason with Coco Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury?

Based on recent information, the job should be handed to Lowrie.

It was learned today that Lowrie has played since May with a sprain in his left wrist and a "small, non-displaced fracture" as well, according to the Boston Globe.

The injuries gave Lowrie occasional pain and affected his grip strength, particularly late in the season, which likely explains his difficulties batting left handed. As a right handed batter, Lowrie hit .338 with a .525 slugging percentage with the Red Sox. Left handed, he hit .222 with a .334 slugging percentage.

This is perhaps the most interesting statistic with me. When Lowrie was not inhibited by his injury, he effectively hit left-handed pitchers. As a righty, he was well below his left-handed pitcher's mark.

Could this be the product of what will turn out to be a career-long predisposition to lefties? Sure, it could, and I doubt the wrist injury is responsible for all of the .338/.222 batting average disparity, but it had to have some impact.

Also impacting his work at the plate, done mostly left-handed because most pitchers are right-handed, was playing 52 of 53 possible games in August and September, even as he struggled to finish the season with a .157 line in 51 at-bats.

Taking the three major factors into consideration, (wrist injury, being run into the ground, normal rookie struggles) it shouldn't even be a contest as to who starts at shortstop. It could end up a lot like the Ellsbury/Crisp duel in spring training which was determined from the outcome.

Look, if you have to pay all but the minimum of Julio Lugo's salary, they should do it. It's likely that the "savings" (for us it's a big savings, not for them) of around $380,000 and the player they'd receive in return would be of more value than a slumping, irritable player in the backup position. Somehow I don't see Lugo reacting with the class that Coco Crisp did.

Plenty teams will be on the hunt for a shortstop: Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres (if they trade Khalil Greene). And that's not getting into second and third basemen, positions Lugo can play if asked. He can be moved.

Continue the youth revolution and put the money in a true impact player.