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With Pedroia's Return, Red Sox Face A Scutaro - Lowrie Conundrum

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ANAHEIM CA - JULY 27:  Jed Lowrie #12 of the Boston Red Sox hits a two RBI double in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 27 2010 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM CA - JULY 27: Jed Lowrie #12 of the Boston Red Sox hits a two RBI double in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 27 2010 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Jed Lowrie's redemption has come in a hurry.

After suffering through a rookie season ruined by injury, a mismanaged recovery, and finally a case of mono that left the young middle infielder labeled as mediocre and injury prone, Lowrie has finally been given a shot to prove the doubters wrong. Through a scant 60 plate appearances, he is doing just that.

Small sample size though it may be, Lowrie's performance has been entirely impressive. With a batting line of .313/.441/.500, Jed has been exactly the sort of sparkplug the Red Sox offense has needed, and more than it could have expected from the return of any other player, even Dustin Pedroia.

This is not to say that Lowrie is a better player in any respects than Dustin Pedroia--60 plate appearances are 60 plate appearances--but seeing a healthy Lowrie come hot out of the gate is an encouraging reminder of the up-and-coming talent he was before breaking his wrist (noticeably, those left and right handed splits that went to hell after the injury have come right back up to even). Combining one of the most disciplined approaches at the plate in the game (and without the maddening tendency to look at meatballs that often accompanies such an approach) with a reliable doubles swing and high contact rates, Lowrie has the build of a player that can continue putting up big numbers for his position--if perhaps not so Hanley Ramirez big as we have seen of late.

But Dustin Pedroia will come back, and the Red Sox will be left with three players in two positions. We have seen in 2008 that Jed Lowrie can handle the shortstop position, so where does that leave Marco Scutaro? Certainly his numbers haven't been what they were in 2009, but a good deal of that seems attributable to the fact that Scutaro has been playing practically every game despite dead muscle issues. If he were to finally see some time off, though, and get fixed up over the offseason, Scutaro could probably start on at least half the teams in the majors, if not more.

The thing about Scutaro is that his contract is affordable to almost all of those teams. At just $5 million next year, Scutaro is noticeably cheaper than some of the veterans getting big deals on name recognition. As a one-year deal with a cheap player option, he's also low-risk for anyone who might look to pick him up over the offseason. Even with this season's regression, there is almost certainly a market for Scutaro. Just look at who teams like the Mariners, and Orioles are fielding.

Of course, if Lowrie can finish his season with anything other than a collapse, there will likely be some serious interest in him as well. Just 26-years-old and still a year away from arbitration, Lowrie comes with four years of team control, and even some potential to dream on. The question for other teams is the same as for the Red Sox: was his wrist injury a one-time thing, or does he deserve his injury-prone reputation?

So what do the Red Sox do with this situation? One thing that seems an absolute waste is for the Red Sox to stash Jed Lowrie on the bench. Whether it be here or on another team, he has earned his shot as a starter between the beginning of 2008, and these last few weeks.The situation could solve itself if Marco Scutaro's injuries persist and he becomes more of a backup player, but otherwise it seems crazy to pay a utility man $5 million if there's someone else out there willing to pick up the bill for a starter. Perhaps Jed Lowrie could switch over to third if Beltre leaves and no replacement is found, but it seems a shame to play a shortstop at a corner.

Am I overrating 60 plate appearances? Am I in denial over Lowrie's injury issues? Am I crazy to think either could be considered a commodity by another team, if certainly no blue chip piece? Perhaps on any and all of those points. But one thing that is becoming clear is that the Red Sox are going to have three starting-quality middle infielders, and only two spots. For the next month or so, the Sox can probably wing it with a rotation between a trio of players not quite at 100%, but eventually something will have to be done. An enviable conundrum, perhaps, but one that needs solving none-the-less.