Imagine a world where Julio Lugo is the full-time shortstop and he's missing ball after ball hit between second and third, or short-arming the throw to first. Where he's up with runners in scoring position and weakly pops up. We've seen glimpses of that once-possible future...and it sucks.
Then you have Green, who has overcome his early fielding jitters and is now making some great plays almost every day. He has an arm like a cannon. For the month of June he has an .844 OPS. For the year, with runners in scoring position and two outs Green is hitting .500 with an 1.196 OPS. If the situation is runners in scoring position with less than two outs, Green is batting .409 and has a 1.054 OPS. Green thrives on the moment and has been nothing short of spectacular for Boston this year.
He's been good enough that when Lowrie comes back, Tito is going to be faced with a hard choice. Yes, Lowrie is the future at the position. But for now, if Green is playing so well, do you really want to take him out of the starting lineup? I think the right play is to keep Green as the nominal starter at short and make Lowrie the utilityman for 2009. Unless Green goes off the deep end, in which case you just swap the two.
And yes, all the above scenarios assume that Lugo has been bought out, traded or demoted. He cannot get out of Boston fast enough for my liking.
Then there is the continuing resurgence of Big Papi. His two-run jack in the first put the Sox up 3-2. He was 2-4 with two runs scored and two RBI. For the month of June, Papi is now batting .308 with a 1.054 OPS. He has five homers, 12 RBI and 10 runs scored. The fact that Ortiz has been able to right himself has afforded the Sox the luxury to do certain things. Things like put Daisuke on the DL and keep Brad Penny.
Yes, the Sox did like I thought they would and they placed Matsuzaka on the 15-day DL. What I didn't expect was for Tito and the brass to intimate that Daisuke would be gone a lot longer. Some people, like Eric Wilbur at boston.com, think you won't see Matsuzaka again until 2010. I think that's a little extreme. If the Sox are really going to keep Daisuke out for an extended period of time, I would guess we see him back on the roster in September. And if he is pitching well again, then the Sox will once again have to decide which pitcher stays and which pitcher goes. But for now, the Sox can roll with Penny and Smoltz in the rotation with Buchholz and Bowden waiting for their chance.
There was one odd thing...the top of the lineup did jack squat in this series. Pedroia, Drew, Youk and Bay went a combined 7-42 (.166) with 6 RBI, five runs scored and five walks. It was an uninspired effort and yet the Sox were able to take two of three from Atlanta. It doesn't hurt that Nick Green is carrying them on his mightly back right now either. But still...it may be time to re-insert Ellsbury at the top of the lineup. He has been seeing the ball better and I think he's ready to do it again. Plus, Pedroia has not been your "ideal" leadoff batter. I think he is much more suited for the second slot. Then keep Youk and Bay in the 3-4 slots and push Drew to sixth behind Papi.
No game tonight as the Sox travel to Washington to open a three-game set tomorrow with the Nationals. Brad Penny will go up against John Lannan. If Lannan's name sounds familiar, that is because his last game was a masterful win over the Yankees in New York. The kid can pitch, so the Sox had best not take him lightly.