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.