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Scutaro’s one fantastic option

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 5, 2010

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Three pitches into last night’s game, Marco Scutaro stood on second base after a double to the base of the Wall in left. Two batters later, he scored.

While the Red Sox certainly have missed Jacoby Ellsbury’s presence since he took an Adrian Beltre knee to the chest April 11, giving him four fractured ribs and a spot on the disabled list, there hasn’t been much drama about the leadoff spot. Not like there has been in past years.

With Scutaro hanging around down in the No. 9 spot, the Sox simply moved him up — no muss, no fuss.

“I think you can hit Marco anywhere,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “I think when we were hitting him early in the season ninth, it was good for our lineup because you’ve got a guy that has leadoff skills sitting down there at the bottom. Makes your team better.

“But I think it was an easy decision for us when Jacoby’s not available, because of his at-bats.’’

Entering last night, Scutaro has batted .279 with a .354 on-base percentage and .726 OPS in the leadoff spot, comparable to the numbers he was putting up at the bottom of the order.

Not that he’s trying to usurp the spot from Ellsbury.

“I’m pretty clear he’s the one,’’ said Scutaro, who added a double and a single to go 3 for 5 in the Sox’ 5-1 win. “He’s a really good leadoff guy. He’s going to be the leadoff guy. When he comes back, I’ll probably go to the nine hole. I don’t really care.’’

Last night marked Scutaro’s fourth multihit game in his last eight, during which he’s hitting .361. He added a stellar play in the infield in which he ranged deep in the hole to catch Kendry Morales in the fourth, and keep the Angels from scoring two runs.

“That was something, wasn’t it?’’ Francona said. “I think off the bat you’re looking to see if the runner can score because the ball is going into left, and we turn it into an out. Yeah, that was huge.’’

Lowell connector
Mike Lowell pinch hit in the eighth inning for Darnell McDonald and delivered an RBI double, his fifth hit in his last five at-bats, the last four doubles. “He’s a professional hitter,’’ Francona said. “I think [Scot Shields] had been pretty tough on him, too. It’s nice because when you send Mikey up there, it doesn’t matter who they bring in. He’s a guy that’s used to facing lefties, righties. I know it’s not easy, but he’s ready to hit.’’ Lowell had been 1 for 8 against Shields . . . Sox starters are 4-1 with a 3.04 ERA the last seven games . . . J.D. Drew is 18 for 48 with 4 home runs, 5 doubles, and 15 RBIs his last 12 games, raising his average from .133 to .258 . . . Legendary Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell died last night after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 92. “One of the dearest men ever,’’ said Francona. Francona was the third base coach in Detroit in 1996.

Just another game
John Lackey came up with the Angels, won a World Series with the Angels, and he’s set to pitch against the Angels tonight. “It doesn’t matter much who you’re playing right now,’’ he said. “I need to pitch well; we need to win the game.’’ Lackey didn’t seem to think there would be much emotion when he walks to the mound. “Honestly, you look at their lineup right now, I faced a lot of those guys on different teams,’’ he said. “The [turnover] since I was there is pretty great. There’s only a handful of guys that I played with the whole time I was there.’’ Lackey is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA.

Nomar’s night
The Sox will honor Nomar Garciaparra before tonight’s game. Garciaparra signed a one-day contract with the Sox this spring so he could retire as a member of the organization. “I was with him in the fall league when he was a young kid,’’ Francona said. “So I got to see him even though I wasn’t in the organization. He asked the best questions. He was smart. He wasn’t pulling the ball yet, but you could see him hitting the ball to right-center. You could see how good he had a chance to be. Francona managed Garciaparra with the Scottsdale Scorpions in 1994, the year he was drafted.

Progress report
Ellsbury took batting practice in an early group yesterday, a significant step in his progress. Mike Cameron also took batting practice and still appears closer to returning than Ellsbury. Cameron said he would need a couple of games in the minors to get back. He’s clearly champing at the bit . . . Boof Bonser (groin) is scheduled to throw a side session today and pitch on Friday . . . The draft order was released yesterday, with the Sox getting the No. 20 pick in the first round from Atlanta as compensation for Billy Wagner and losing the No. 29 pick to Los Angeles as compensation for Lackey. They also have two compensation picks in the sandwich round, No. 36 (Jason Bay) and No. 39 (Wagner). They received the No. 57 pick (second round) for Bay from the Mets.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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