05/04/09 8:00 PM ET
Rusty Lugo given off Monday, at least
Francona gives shortstop time to get comfortable in field
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Lugo was activated one week ago after undergoing right knee surgery in mid-March, and he's still trying to get his body and his instincts completely back to game speed. Remember, Lugo also missed the entire second half of last season with a left quad injury.
Nick Green, who has done a solid job offensively, was penciled into the starting lineup on Monday for the start of a two-game series against the Yankees.
"[Lugo] came back quick," Francona said. "I don't think he's moving yet like he's going to. I told him to take the next day or so and get with [strength-and-conditioning coach Dave Page] because I think putting him out there sometimes is a little unfair."
In Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Rays, Lugo dropped the ball on a transfer during what would have been a key double play. He also looked awkward on some of his routes to ground balls.
"I thought yesterday he got put in some situations where plays were hard for him to make," Francona said. "He will be better. I know that, and so does he. So in the meantime, I'll try to balance it the best I can, where we're looking out for our guys and we're winning games. I'll just communicate honestly with both of them -- that's the best way I know how to do it. I thought I had a good talk with Lugo."
Lugo was fine with Francona's decision.
"I think it's good for me," Lugo said. "It's good for me to get my body in shape and then play, instead of just going out there and blowing it out again."
As hard as Lugo worked in his rehab, he could only do so much to simulate what it's like to play in the Major Leagues.
"The hardest thing for me is that I haven't played for a while," Lugo said. "I haven't played [regularly] since last July. It's going to take me a while even to get my reflexes on balls. It's going to take me a little longer. I think that's the biggest difference."
Lugo feels that he's making progress offensively. It is at shortstop where he's still trying to get back to where he needs to be.
"Your body has to feel good to play good defense and have a good angle on balls -- and going in, going out, going to the sides, going back," Lugo said. "You can work on your offense all the time. You can go to the cage and work. On defense, you've got to actually go to the field and practice and see balls off the bat. It's not only fungos. You have to see balls off the bat."
Green hasn't been a model of consistency on defense either, making a team-high six errors entering Monday.
"Fortunately, some of the errors he's made haven't been very costly," Francona said of Green. "Sometimes, there's a little bit of fortune involved in that. Some of it is timing."
The right-handed-hitting Green took a .304 average into Monday's game, with one homer and 10 RBIs.
"It's important, obviously," Green said. "When you get off to a slow start, a lot of times you start pressing. The biggest key is just to get at-bats and contribute in positive ways. It keeps your confidence up."
When will Lugo be ready to resume an everyday role?
"I don't know," Lugo said. "Pretty soon."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.