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From bottom, Green was tops

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / June 10, 2009
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Nick Green still sees himself as a part-time shortstop. He assumes manager Terry Francona plays him or Julio Lugo depending on how he feels that day, which is perfectly fine with Green.

"I just play when they tell me to play and don't when they don't," he said.

Green says he doesn't see a pattern in his playing time, but one seems to be settling in - that Green is the preferred choice. In last night's 7-0 win over the Yankees, Green took another step toward claiming the shortstop position until Jed Lowrie is healthy enough to return. He blasted his second home run of the season and ripped an RBI double.

Green has started three straight games since Friday night, when Lugo couldn't get to two seemingly reachable ground balls, plays that could have prevented five runs in a loss to the Rangers. The Red Sox are 24-10 when Green starts at shortstop, 10-14 when he does not.

"He's been great," third baseman Mike Lowell said. "I still don't think people give him credit. He can really hammer a fastball. He's been a run producer and kind of a slugger out of that shortstop position. He's been a major factor for us."

Francona has praised Green's energy at shortstop, and despite his nine errors this season, he has proven he can get to ground balls that are currently out of Lugo's range.

"I just like watching him throw," Lowell said. "Because he has an absolute bazooka. If he gets his hands on it, the guy is pretty much out."

At the plate, Green provided surprising power. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, his .426 slugging percentage would rank fourth among American League shortstops.

Green added the final blow last night in the seventh inning, when he crushed a pitch from Jose Veras clear out of Fenway, over the AAA sign on top of the Green Monster. Green has shown substantial force in his bat, which comes from knowing his swing and being selective.

"I can't hit every pitch," Green said. "So it's just a matter of hitting the pitch you can hit."

Green had been 0 for 7 in his previous two starts, but his regular playing time allowed him to find a rhythm.

"Any time you can play relatively consistently, it's good for your hitting," Green said.

Green came to the plate in the third inning 0 for 1, having reached on an error in his first at-bat against A.J. Burnett. Green smoked a line drive to left, not knowing if he had hit it well enough to get over Nick Swisher's head. Swisher took one small step in, then backpedaled quickly, but not quickly enough. The ball hit the warning track and skipped off the Wall.

Jason Varitek scored, Green scooted into second with a double, and Burnett skulked off the mound trailing 5-0, his night over. While batting ninth, Green had helped make every out a difficult one for Burnett.

"He swung the bat great," Dustin Pedroia said. "It's definitely huge turning the lineup over, guys getting on base with the top of the order coming up. That's a big part of our lineup."

More and more, it's a lineup Green is finding himself in.

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