Jed Lowrie could push Marco Scutaro for playing time at shortstop

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During an appearance at the “Hot Stove Cool Music” panel discussion at Fenway Park last night, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein expressed confidence in Marco Scutaro as the starting shortstop, but suggested that Jed Lowrie could push him for playing time this season (via Brian McPherson of the Providence Journal).

“We have two really talented shortstops on the roster at different phases of their career, and they’ll both end up helping this club win,” Epstein said. “How it shakes out in terms of playing time will be up to Tito (Francona) — and, ultimately, the players will determine their own roles.

“If we’re a better team with one guy playing two-thirds of the time and the other guy playing one-third of the time and moving around, that’s what we’ll be. If it looks like we’ll be a better team with a more traditional arrangement or a time share, that’s what we’ll do. Players, ultimately, make those decisions for you.”

It looked like 2010 was going to be another lost year for Lowrie, but he was fantastic in a small sample after returning from a bout with mononucleosis, batting .287/.381/.526 with nine homers, 24 RBI, a 907 OPS and 25/25 K/BB ratio over 197 plate appearances. Meanwhile, the 35-year-old Scutaro battled injuries for most of the season, batting .275/.333/.388 with 11 home runs, 56 RBI and a 721 OPS. He was also below average defensively at shortstop for a second straight season, according to Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) on FanGraphs.

Scutaro probably deserves a chance to open the season as the shortstop, but if the switch-hitting Lowrie can repeat his production, particularly against right-handed pitching, it will be very difficult to sit him down.

Erasmo Ramirez to be shut down with a minor lat strain

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Mariners right-hander Erasmo Ramirez has been shut down for two weeks with a minor lat strain, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. It’s a precautionary move, as Ramirez felt some tightness in his arm and could not complete his scheduled bullpen session on Saturday.

There’s no word yet on whether Ramirez will be able to recover in time for the start of the season, though he’s expected to claim a rotation spot again this spring. The 28-year-old righty has been dogged by injuries throughout his six-year career, but finally managed to piece together a full season on the mound in back-to-back stints with the Rays and Mariners in 2017. He went 5-6 in 19 starts for the two clubs and turned in a cumulative 4.39 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 through 131 1/3 innings.

The Mariners are no stranger to pitcher injuries, either. They lost a number of their top arms to various elbow, arm and shoulder injuries last year and cycled through 40 total pitchers as they limped toward a 78-84 finish. Comments from club manager Scott Servais indicate that the team will keep a close eye on Ramirez throughout his recovery, though Divish notes that right-hander Andrew Moore and lefty Ariel Miranda could also slot into the no. 5 spot if Ramirez experiences further setbacks.