Commentary

Francona: I've always liked Scutaro

Says talk of switching Pedroia from second wasn't serious

Updated: December 5, 2009, 1:44 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- The idea of Dustin Pedroia moving to shortstop came up, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said here Friday night, while he and Theo Epstein were tossing out ideas one day. Not terribly serious, Francona insisted, though he admitted calling Pedroia to solicit his thoughts.

"Because of who he is," Francona said, "he probably could have handled it. … I called him, and the next day it all came out.

"I called him back and said, 'Pedey, you have a big mouth.' He said, 'Sorry, but I got all fired up.' It probably had a 5 percent chance of ever happening."

Francona I'm thrilled. He's reliable. He gets on base. He knows how to play the game. I've always kind of been a big fan. I've always had him up there, and I think Theo always thought the same. When I talked to Theo, you could hear the excitement in his voice, which was nice to hear.

-- Red Sox manager Terry Francona

Francona was not at Friday's news conference announcing the signing of Marco Scutaro as the new Red Sox shortstop. He'd made a point of coming here to David Ortiz's charity golf event, having missed the inaugural event last year. "Went to Pookie's wedding last year," Francona said, referring to Sox clubhouse man Pookie Jackson. "Now, that was something."

But Francona, when he wasn't joking about how poorly he'd fared on the golf course or how much tropical sun he'd taken on the top of his bald head, talked up Scutaro and what a good fit he will be with the Red Sox.

"I'm thrilled," he said. "He's reliable. He gets on base. He knows how to play the game. I've always kind of been a big fan. I've always had him up there, and I think Theo always thought the same. When I talked to Theo, you could hear the excitement in his voice, which was nice to hear.

"I know how he values his draft picks, but this was a good get."

Signing Scutaro cost the Red Sox their No. 1 draft pick, but they recouped that pick, and with a better draft position, when they received Atlanta's first-round pick as compensation for the Braves' signing of free-agent reliever Billy Wagner.

Francona made it clear that his plan is for Scutaro to open the season at short, regardless of whether Jed Lowrie is able to play.

"The biggest thing for Jed is to get healthy," Francona said, alluding to the wrist woes that limited Lowrie to 32 games last season. "We all think he's a pretty good player, but we're trying to win, and you don't want to come into spring training where you just don't know (whether he's healthy).

David Ortiz
Gordon Edes for ESPN.com"He's a good player, and a good friend of mine,'' said David Ortiz of Scutaro, between drives on the golf course in Punta Cana.

"Scutaro is going to play, but if Jed's healthy, it will all work out. We could have him as a utility player, or he could play in Triple-A. but that's too far down the line."

The Red Sox went through four shortstops last season, with Lowrie, Julio Lugo, and Nick Green all playing the position until the Red Sox acquired Alex Gonzalez in an August waiver deal from the Reds. "Gonzo came in, and it had a real calming effect.

"To have that now from day one, with this guy at short and [catcher] Victor [Martinez] for a full year, will be [big]."

Scutaro is expected to serve as a bridge to the Sox shortstop of the future, Jose Iglesias, the Cuban defector who turns 20 next month.

"He has borderline spectacular hands and great balance," Francona said. "Hitting-wise, I'm not smart enough to know. He's 19. But Jason MacLeod [the former scouting director who just left to join the Padres], who I really respect a lot, broke him down pretty extensively for us.

"This will give him a couple of years to play, which is good."

Ortiz said Friday afternoon he was unaware of the Scutaro deal.

"He's a good player, and a good friend of mine," Ortiz said of the Venezuelan native.

And who in baseball isn't a friend of Ortiz, who spends the first 10 minutes of batting practice greeting and embracing players on the opposite side.

He laughed. "I guess I'm running out of enemies in this game," he said.

Jason Varitek, who was among a number of Sox players in attendance -- Mike Lowell, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard, Clay Buchholz, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester also were here -- also endorsed Scutaro's signing.

"Once he got a chance to play," Varitek said, referring to Scutaro's early years as a utility player, "he turned himself into one heck of an offensive player.

"Defensively, we didn't get to see him on a day-to-day basis, but as a hitter he's one of the tougher outs in the league and strengthens our lineup."

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES