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Varitek breaks down Scutaro

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 23, 2010 06:47 PM

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300scutaro.jpgMarco Scutaro said what was expected today when he checked into camp. He's happy to be with the Red Sox, he's feeling good and he's ready for the season.

Scutaro talked about winning an everyday job with the Blue Jays late in his career and how he was able to make the most of it, parlaying a career season in 2009 into a two-year, $12.5 million deal.

Most players aren't comfortable talking about themselves, so I ventured over to the other side of the clubhouse to ask Jason Varitek what he had seen in Scutaro these last two years.

“He made adjustments. He simplified his swing and that allows him to cover more area of the plate,” said Varitek, who keeps prolific notes on opposing hitters. “He got better as a hitter. From my perspective, there was a change in his mechanics and his approach and it paid off for him.

"He made those changes just as he became an everyday player and it worked for him.”

The next trip was to Fangraphs.com, which confirmed what Varitek said. Scutaro's contact percentage (percentage of contact made when swinging at all pitches) was a career-best 93.3 percent last season. He also posted impressive gains in OBP the last two seasons and improved his walk-to-strikeout ratio.

What Varitek said about Scutaro improving his plate discipline was exactly right.

Scutaro, I suspect, will hit low in the Red Sox order and could be a productive hitter there. Most projections have him for a .350 OBP and 40 or so extra-base hits. If he does that, the Sox will be pleased.

“He has the ability to hit at the top or the bottom, depending on what we’re doing, who’s healthy and what guys are playing well,” manager Terry Francona said.

Said Scutaro: “I don’t care. Wherever they need me.”

A few other notes from today:

  • Jon Papelbon had what Francona called "bed back" and was restricted a bit today. But he threw his bullpen, so obviously the issue is not too serious.

    (Throw a bullpen is baseball-speak for throwing pitches in the bullpen to stay sharp and/or build arm strength. Starters throw a pen at least once between starts and relievers do it when they need work. In spring training, pitchers throw a pen every other day.)

  • Daisuke Matsuzaka played catch again today and felt fine. He'll get a day off tomorrow or Thursday.
  • Mike Lowell was excused from the conditioning drills.
  • Francona on David Ortiz's performance in the conditioning test: “He did it. Don’t know how many players of that — I guess maybe you can use the word stature — but that’s a lot of body to move twice 300 yards. He did it and I know his teammates probably really appreciate it.

    "It means something. It’s not the end-all, it doesn’t mean he’s going to hit home runs; it doesn’t mean he’s not. But it’s part of being a team going in one direction and that’s important."

  • The Sox have a 9 a.m. team meeting tomorrow. From what we know, Francona, Theo Epstein and John Henry will address the team.

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