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They're getting the short shrift at short

Red Sox lacking at a key position

By Nick Cafardo
May 24, 2009
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It's not that the Red Sox don't value the position of shortstop. It's just that their decisions involving it - after the one that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs in a three-team deal that netted them Orlando Cabrera - haven't always worked out.

Terry Francona acknowledges that there has been a revolving door of shortstops from 2004-09, but he's correct when he says his team has had quite a bit of success during that time frame.

Every organization seems to have at least one "black hole" position, and for the Sox, it happens to be shortstop. We may never know the full story behind the Sox' decision to not re-sign Cabrera, who had solidified the position defensively; or why they chose to give Edgar Renteria a long-term deal; or why they deemed Alex Gonzalez not good enough offensively to play in the American League; or why a four-year, $36 million contract was given to Julio Lugo.

In the cases of Renteria and Lugo, the Sox thought they had solidified the position long-term.

Renteria hated playing on the hard Fenway infield and felt uncomfortable in the AL after being an All-Star and Gold Glove winner with the Marlins and Cardinals. The Sox pursued Lugo when they decided Gonzalez was injury-prone and didn't hit enough to stay in an AL lineup. To be fair, the Sox tried to bring Gonzalez back, but he wanted more than a one-year deal.

Lugo was signed off a terrible second half as a utilityman with the Dodgers after he'd been dealt by the Rays. The scouting report said he was an "effective leadoff hitter, an athletic and enthusiastic player who brought energy to a team." Lugo wasn't a leadoff guy. He never hit as well as billed and he has been prone to errors in the field.

Now the Red Sox believe Jed Lowrie will be the answer. While some talent evaluators question his ability to be an everyday shortstop, the Sox are convinced.

The switch-hitting Lowrie would have been the starter had he been able to remain healthy, but he had wrist surgery and is out until after the All-Star break. We know how tricky wrist injuries can be, and whether Lowrie comes back 100 percent remains to be seen. In the interim, there is chaos at the position.

Lugo has returned from his March 17 knee surgery a much slower player. We see balls going past him, up the middle and through the hole, much more frequently. His failure to turn a double play Friday night was costly in a loss to the Mets.

Last night, the Sox went back to Nick Green at shortstop. The last time we saw Green, he threw a ball away in Seattle that cost the Sox a game.

Green has made eight errors and Lugo four, and while according to Francona, Green's early errors didn't cost the team, his recent ones have.

Frustration is beginning to build among other Sox players. In reference to Lugo's missed opportunity Friday night, Dustin Pedroia said, "We have to turn that double play in that situation. That's obvious. Everyone knows that. It just didn't happen."

With Lowrie's return drawing closer, the Sox have not been aggressive in trying to obtain another shortstop of significance. They made an attempt at Florida's Hanley Ramirez in the offseason and were rejected. Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson would be a nice pickup, but what would they do with him when Lowrie gets back?

The Cardinals are shopping Khalil Greene, and have inquired with the Sox about their interest. Greene is hitting .210 with two homers and 14 RBIs and has committed six errors. Bobby Crosby is hovering around .200 in Oakland. Are either the answer? The Sox appear to have enough offense that obtaining a defensive specialist could tide them over.

If Green or Lugo makes another costly error, who knows if the Sox will bite the bullet and bring someone else in? If it's any consolation, this weekend's opponents, the Mets, are biding their time while Jose Reyes's calf injury heals and crossing their fingers with Ramon Martinez.

Shortstops are important for this reason: the good ones ease the minds of pitchers. When pitchers have innings extended by a player who is supposed to be there for his defense, confidence begins to wane.

That's the last thing a team with Boston's resources and pitching wants or needs.

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