Jed Lowrie doesn’t get defensive when he’s congratulated for his defensive prowess, which has been happening a lot lately.
He does wonder what the big deal is, however. Patrolling at shortstop is part of his job description, and he takes great pride in it.
But all you have to do is look at Thursday’s lineup against the Chicago White Sox, where Lowrie and his .319 batting average are batting second to see what the issue is.
Next to Lowrie’s name is not “SS’’ but rather “2B.’’ That’s the way it’s been much of the last seven weeks, ever since Adam Rosales was activated from the disabled list on April 25.
Eric Sogard and Rosales are alternating, Sogard playing second base against right-handed starting pitching and Rosales moving in at shortstop against lefties. Manager Bob Melvin is playing each man at his natural position and letting Lowrie take whichever spot is open.
So Lowrie, who began the season as the everyday shortstop, is now just every day. He’s made 38 starts at shortstop and 14 at second base. With the White Sox scheduled to throw four left-handers at the A’s in this long weekend series, it will be a while before Lowrie will be back at short.
And that’s what makes Lowrie’s play at short something to watch. Playing second base is a different animal. And while it is true that if you can play one position well you can show some kind of proficiency in the other, to be really good, it’s best to stay at one position.
Coming across the bag to turn the double play is perhaps the signature move at second base. Going deep into the hole to get a grounder and throw a runner out at first is perhaps the signature move at shortstop.
For a second baseman to make that long throw from short can be an issue, because given their proximity to first base, second basemen by habit have to shorten up their throws to the point where the often flip the ball rather than gun it.
“There is that difference,’’ Lowrie admitted. “Many of the throws are not the same at all. And the more you do them, the better they’ll be.’’
Lowrie hasn’t had the chance to make the throws day after day. But his throws have been good nonetheless, essential for a team that relies heavily on its defenders to support a first-rate pitching staff.
Melvin, who in an ideal world would like to be able to have his players specialize in just one position, appreciates Lowrie’s defensive showing despite the hurdles imposed by having to switch positions.
“In a way, Jed’s versatility works against him,’’ Melvin said. “He can do a very good job at either position.’’
For now, the A’s need him to do some of both, and Lowrie is not disappointing.