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Give shortstop a longer look

Page 2 of 2 -- Myers, who pitched against Renteria, said that with the Cardinals, Renteria frequently was used in hit-and-run situations batting behind Tony Womack, which put pressure on the infielders who had to pinch in, opening the field more for Renteria to punch balls through. "There is an adjustment coming to another league," Myers said, "and there's so many other factors to consider. A lot of guys, when they've just signed the longest contract of their careers, want to be so good right away. He's already had a few clutch hits for us, and it's when you need a clutch hit, that's when he's the biggest pain in the butt to pitch to. That's why I'm glad he's on our side."

Renteria is much more reserved than the chatty Cabrera but does not exhibit the reclusive tendencies that Garciaparra showed at the end of his Sox tenure, usually spending his time before games talking with David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and batting-practice pitcher Ino Guerrero. He has shown signs of emerging from his slow start. He had three straight two-hit games in mid-April before his average dipped to .201, but has hits in seven of his last eight games (9 for 33, .273), including a single to load the bases in the fifth yesterday, when the Sox scored four times, and a bunt single in the eighth Saturday night, the first by a Sox player this season, which was a catalyst to a three-run rally.

"It's been different," he said of finding his way with the Sox, "but when you're struggling, it doesn't matter if you're here or the National League or Japan."

No, he said, the contract is not a burden. "I'm not that way," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're paying me a dollar, I play the game the same way. The money I don't think about."

Francona said Renteria has been "fighting it a little bit, but there's going to be a point where he's going to pick it up, because he's a great player. A guy like that is going to get to his level . . . that's just the way it is."

Beware of making a hasty judgment, even if Renteria's .228 in April was the fourth-worst month of his career (.200 in September 1998, .214 in April 1997, .218 in June 2001). You could field an all-star team with the good players who struggled in the first month of the season: Aaron "Bleeping" Boone began the day hitting .123 for the Indians, the lowest average among qualifiers in the major leagues. Steve Finley, a big-name free agent signing, was hitting .149 for the Angels. Phillies strongman Jim Thome was batting .203 with a home run. A's superstar Eric Chavez was at .194, Marlins slugger Mike Lowell at .198.

"I know it's going to come," Renteria said. "Sooner or later it's going to come. I'm worried a little bit, because that's not me, you know. That bothers me a little bit. But it will come." 

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