Toughness wins Scutaro a spot in lineup

Toughness wins Scutaro a spot in lineup

Toughness wins Scutaro a spot in lineup
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When you list the various Red Sox players who had significant injury problems in 2010, Marco Scutaro doesn't even make the top 10.

How could he? After all, Scutaro notched a career-high 632 at-bats. It was also the most on a team that had more than its share of health issues.

If you want to know the truth, however, Scutaro was hardly healthy. From the left elbow injury to the pinched nerve in his neck to the right rotator cuff ailment, the shortstop was a bit of a mess.

But Scutaro kept playing. When you spent most of your career as a utility player before finally tasting life as a starter, you don't come out of the lineup easily.

"I was kind of proud, because I stayed playing the whole year," said Scutaro. "It was kind of tough, but that made me feel better that I stayed in the lineup pretty much all year."

Even for a tough-minded infielder like Scutaro, playing through so many different things in one summer was a grind. Now that he's healthy and ready to start his second season in Boston, Scutaro can be candid about what it was like.

"It's nice to feel the way you normally feel. If the results aren't there, at least you show up at the ballpark and you have a chance to compete, you know?" Scutaro said. "But last year was kind of tough. There were some days when I would get up at 11 or noon and I'd think, 'Oh my God. I have to do so much stuff to get loose.'"

With players like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron all dealing with injuries, Scutaro did everything he could to stay in the lineup.

"He could have shut it down anytime he wanted to and no one would have said a word," said manager Terry Francona. "His numbers probably suffered a little because of it and he probably walked less because of it. We wanted to make sure he understood we didn't forget that. He took at-bats because he cared and he's a good teammate. He's noticeably stronger. If you look at him, you can see it.

"But I told him there's going to be days where I force him to not play this year. As much as we appreciated what he did last year, he kind of ran himself into the ground. I'm not sure we had a choice, but we do appreciate it."

Might Scutaro have accepted a stint on the disabled list if his teammates were healthier?

"Probably. I don't know," said Scutaro. "When I go every day to the ballpark, my mind was to be in the lineup. It was a pretty tough thing, but I think as long as you mentally prepare, you can help your team to win games."

In 152 games, Scutaro hit .275 with 11 homers and 65 RBIs. He scored 92 runs and hit 38 doubles.

When the Red Sox were eliminated with five games left in the season, Scutaro still wanted to keep playing. Francona let him the night Jon Lester was trying for his 20th win, but after that, the manager finally told Scutaro that enough was enough.

That type of toughness earns respect throughout a clubhouse. So perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise when Francona gave Scutaro multiple votes of confidence as the starting shortstop for 2011, even as Jed Lowrie has finally regained his health.

What did Scutaro think when he heard that Francona still thought of him as the starter?

"I was in Miami at home. I was watching some TV. I heard the news. We had a barbecue that night and we celebrated like crazy," quipped Scutaro, who is notorious for his dry sense of humor.

In truth, what Scutaro is celebrating during the early days of Spring Training is a body that doesn't ache.

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.