Tito all but ordains Lowrie as starter

BALTIMORE -- Terry Francona isn’t going to instruct team publicist Pam Ganley to issue an official press release announcing his intentions, but the Red Sox manager on Wednesday all but declared that Jed Lowrie has displaced Marco Scutaro as the team’s starting shortstop.

Scutaro started 10 of the team’s first 12 games at short, a span in which the team went 2-10. Lowrie has started 7 of the next 10 at short, and also started two games at third. He is in Wednesday’s lineup at short, batting seventh.

Lowrie is batting a team-high .400, and is also leading the club in on-base percentage (.424) and slugging percentage (.636). Scutaro is batting .213, raising his average over .200 with two hits on Sunday in Anaheim.

Francona had eliminated the possibility of Lowrie challenging Scutaro for the shortstop position before spring training, declaring that Scutaro was the starter and that Lowrie would be used at all four infield positions.

But it’s obvious that Lowrie’s performance this month has altered the manager's thinking, and on Wednesday Francona suggested for the first time that Scutaro, who at 35 is eight years older than Lowrie, may become the utility infielder, a role Scutaro filled for most of his big-league career.

It was only in the last two seasons, 2009 with Toronto and last year with the Red Sox, that Scutaro had become an everyday shortstop, an unusual progression for a player of his age.

“I thought coming into the year the right thing to do was play Scutaro,’’ Francona said.

To make a change at that stage, he said, would not have been fair to Scutaro, who had played hurt all last season.

“Going into spring training, I think I talked about it, I don’t think I’d’ want to play for me [if he made the change],’’ Francona said. “The guy went out and did what he was supposed to do. Jed had been hurt.

“I kind of said, ‘We view Jed as a starting player but not right now. Well, when you hit .450, I think it’s my responsibility to put him in the lineup, at least most, a lot of the time. I don’t think [Scutaro] likes it very much and I actually don’t blame him, because he’s done everything we’ve asked.

“But I’ve got a responsibility to do what is right.’’

Francona also acknowledged Wednesday that while Lowrie will still play third base when Kevin Youkilis sits or serves as DH, he may start using Scutaro to back up at second and short.

“That’s what I’ve got to figure out,’’ he said. “I said earlier in the year, because Jed moved around so much, he was the obvious guy to move around. But as Jed plays short, that’s something I probably have to think about. The first week a guy sits a little bit, that’s not the time [to approach him]. I got to pick my spots.’’