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08/03/08 7:07 PM ET

Lowrie a high-end replacement at short

With Lugo shelved, Red Sox glad to have hot-hitting rookie

BOSTON -- While Julio Lugo takes baby steps aimed at returning to the Red Sox's lineup, rookie Jed Lowrie continues to pass his first big Major League test with flying colors.

"He hasn't shied way from competing," Sox manager Terry Francona said before Sunday's game -- Lowrie's 11th start in the past 13 games with Lugo disabled with a strained left quadriceps. "He's playing shortstop in an important time for us, and he seems pretty comfortable doing it."

Lowrie then went out and came through again.

He drove in both runs in Friday night's 2-1 win over Oakland, then had a three-run, opposite-field double in Saturday night's 12-2 rout of the A's -- and finished off a big weekend with a two-run triple in Sunday's 5-2 victory. He was 5-for-10 in the three games and has eight RBIs in his past five games. Lowrie is hitting .317 (13-for-41) over the 11 starts in the recent stretch, with hits in nine of those 11 games -- and is now batting .295 for the year.

On top of that, Lowrie has yet to make an error in the 32 games he's played this season.

"He's kind of Billy Mueller-ish, which isn't so bad, a switch-hitter that swings at strikes, hits the ball in the gap," Francona said before the game, alluding to the former Sox third baseman who won a batting title with the club in 2003. "You don't know after 80-90 at-bats what a kid's going to be, neither do I -- that's just impossible -- but he's really an interesting young hitter. But how he finishes or where he gets to, we wouldn't know -- there's no way."

After the game, Francona said, "He's giving us a lot of production. In limited at-bats, he's gotten some big hits, some timely hits, but he's played the game and blended in like our young guys do -- mixed in with the veterans -- and he's helping us win."

The manager was clearly thrilled with the double down the right-field line from a young right-handed hitter Saturday night.

"That was a nice swing," he said. "I actually made a point of telling him ... you've heard me say it a million times, when hitters reach out and drive the ball the other way, there's a pretty good chance if you swing at strikes you're going to hit the ball hard the other way, too. You have to have balance, you have to be on time or you don't get hits like that."

While the maturation of the 24-year-old Lowrie continues, the veteran Lugo, out since straining his left quadriceps July 11, is out of the pool and doing light workouts before games. There was a report that Lugo was doing wind sprints Saturday, but Francona said, "I'd say jogged."

Before Sunday's game, Lugo was in the outfield with physical therapist Scott Waugh and trainer Paul Lessard. Lugo jogged, did some sideways moving, stretched, did crossovers (slowly), jogged backwards and played some catch.

"He just got out of the pool onto dry land," Francona said, adding Lugo would not be accompanying the Red Sox on the upcoming road trip to Kansas City and Chicago. "He's actually doing great and he's probably ahead of schedule [considering] what happened, but he's not doing wind sprints."

Mike Shalin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.