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Francona's Plans For The Red Sox: Niceties Or Mistakes?

SEATTLE - JULY 22:  Jed Lowrie #12 of the Boston Red Sox flies out to deep right field in the eleventh inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on July 22 2010 in Seattle Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE - JULY 22: Jed Lowrie #12 of the Boston Red Sox flies out to deep right field in the eleventh inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on July 22 2010 in Seattle Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, Terry Francona spoke with reporters (oh shoot, forgot to link! Sorry Scott Lauber!) at the Winter Meetings, fielding questions about how he's going to be handling the new, hopefully improved 2011 roster.

Now, there are two ways to take any quotes coming from a manager. The first is as an actual statement of policy. For instance, talking about Jacoby Ellsbury playing left field last year. Sure enough, come opening day, Ellsbury was in front of the Monster, right until Beltre's knee virtually ended his season.

The second way is to ignore them as so many niceties from the guy in charge to the players he hopes will follow him.

Given what Tito said yesterday, I'm hoping it's the latter.

Let's take a look at what the Red Sox will be in 2011 based on Tito's conversation:

There are no surprises at the obvious positions. Adrian Gonzalez will play first. Dustin Pedroia will play second. And Kevin Youkilis will play third (no, not left field--never left field).

Everywhere else, though, I start to get a bit worried.

First comes Shortstop, where Francona has indicated Jed Lowrie will...not start.

“I think, looking at it right now, (Lowrie) would be a super utility guy with the ability to play third, short, second and first and switch-hit,” Francona said.

I'm not necessarily a fan of repeating letters to emphasize my incredulity, but...Whaaaaaaaat?

Keep in mind that's not an indication that there will be a competition in Spring Training over the starter's job, but a suggestion that not only will Marco Scutaro be starting, but that he'll be starting at the cost of at bats either from Jed Lowrie, or, less forgiveably, from Pedroia, Youkilis, Gonzalez, and David Ortiz.

Let's be clear, it's a great thing that we have such a flexible infield. Thanks to the versatility of Scutaro and Lowrie, every position from first to third has a starter-quality backup. But please, let's have the backup be the backup. If possible, the starters should play as close to 162 games as possible. Let's call it 150 to be account for Terry Francona's liberal rest policy. That leaves 48 starts for the substitute. Maybe bump it up, but hopefully no higher than 100 due to injuries and various movement at the DH position.

Now who would you rather have getting those extra 50-or-so games?

2010 - Jed Lowrie 55 171 31 49 14 0 9 24 25 25 1 1 .287 .381 .526

2010 - Marco Scutaro 150 632 92 174 38 0 11 56 53 71 5 4 .275 .333 .388

Are Lowrie's numbers going to be that good maybe not, but they'll be better than Scutaro's.

I recognize that Francona can't just come out and say "Yeah, we're benching Scutaro," but does he really have to relegate Lowrie to the bench?

Moving on, we hit the outfield, where Francona is less clear. That being said, I still don't like the sound of:

"We signed Cam to play," Francona said. "He had a miserable year health-wise last year. From all accounts, he’s working hard and he’s doing really well. So, I guess I can see Cam playing every day."

Actually, wait, I do like the sound of that. Cameron, with his great splits vs. lefties, would be a great player to platoon with

Francona said right fielder J.D. Drew is more likely to be dropped in the lineup than to sit altogether against left-handed pitchers. "There are certainly certain left-handers that you’re doing him a favor by giving him the day off, but I don’t think you want to have a platoon out there."


To be fair to Francona, he does add that he's not sure about Cameron, but I really just wanted to bridge into the whole platoon thing. We see it again with Ortiz, where Francona suggests they will only be sitting Papi against tougher lefties.

That's better than not sitting him against them at all, but still, when I look at the Red Sox rumors circulating about the Sox and their search for a big right handed bat ala Ordonez or Beltran (their ability to acquire them notwithstanding), I can't help but think this would be some serious wasted potential for this team. We aren't talking about small splits here, we're talking about the difference between the .599 and .611 marks of Ortiz and Drew respectively against lefties, and the Pujols-like numbers Cameron, Ordonez, and Beltran have shown against them in the past.

I mean, would you pull Albert Pujols for Jeremy Hermida? No, no you wouldn't, because you're not absolutely crazy.

Again, this may just be Francona not getting ahead of the front office and burning bridges based on unhatched eggs (this, for the record, is the worst mess of idioms Over The Monster has ever seen), but still, I can't say I'm not a bit worried.

The 2011 Red Sox seem like they'll probably have the pieces to go all the way, assuming the search for bullpen arms and right handed hitters doesn't fall apart. But they also have to be used right. Combine this from Francona with the suggestions that they're looking at Russel Martin as a utility guy, and sometimes...Sometimes I just don't know.