The Red Sox Infield in 2011 (or, Why Lowrie Should Get Plenty of At-Bats . . . or Else!)

ST. PETERSBURG - AUGUST 27: Infielder Jed Lowrie #12 of the Boston Red Sox throws over to first for an out against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on August 27 2010 in St. Petersburg Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Okay, so like many people on this board, I saw Tito's recent comments, about platoons and the Sox's strategy for 2011, including the return of Jacoby Ellsbury to the top of the lineup; like most, my response to seeing that they had Lowrie pegged as the utility guy rather than the starting SS was a hearty "WTF?"  

However, while I do reserve the right to go thermonuclear during the season if we see Lowrie needlessly riding the pine against a tough lefty, I can sort of—vaguely—kinda—maybe, just maybe can see why Tito wants Lowrie to be the "super-utility guy" rather than the starting shortstop. . . .

Basically, the problem comes from looking at the depth charts for the infield. Currently, redsox.com's official depth chart lists the following for the infield: 

1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Lars Anderson

2B: Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie, Yamaico Navarro

SS: Marco Scutaro, Jed Lowrie, Yamaico Navarro

3B: Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie

DH: David Ortiz

Now, if we go by the theory that the Sox will only have six infielders next season, that means that either Anderson or Navarro goes bye-bye. Since Navarro covers two positions and Anderson only one, I assume that Anderson gets a ticket back to Pawtucket. Moreover, the Sox will probably not want Youkilis bouncing back and forth between 3B and 1B, and he's expressed his dissatisfaction with that possibility before. That would mean he'd be more likely to be moved to DH in case Ortiz was given the day off. So, now, you're left with a depth chart like this:

1B: Gonzalez, Lowrie

2B: Pedroia, Lowrie, Navarro

SS: Scutaro, Lowrie, Navarro

3B: Youkilis, Lowrie

DH: Ortiz, Youkilis

Hmm. Looks like you've got the same guy as the principal backup for every infield position. Now, let's look at the list of people on that list who had significant injuries (not illnesses) in 2010:

 Gonzalez (shoulder), Pedroia (foot), Scutaro (shoulder), Youkilis (thumb)

Ruh-roh! So, we have an entire infield potentially coming off of rehab and, in at least Gonzalez' case, perhaps unable to take the field on Opening Day. If that's the case, then you have the very real scenario where the infield is going to need a lot of days off early in the season. If this is true, then it makes sense to have Lowrie moving around as needed, rather than committing him to shortstop. Similarly, if Scutaro's rehab doesn't go well (shades of 2009, anyone?), then Lowrie may have to be committed to shortstop for an extended haul anyways. 

Long story short? Lowrie should have plenty of opportunities for starting time, as long as Tito hasn't gone completely bonkers. If he has gone 'round the bend, then perhaps we here at OTM will need to take up a collection for a billboard outside of Fenway showing Jed's picture, and the following text:

 0.907 OPS. ANY QUESTIONS?

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