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Lugo stands to help

Lugo stands to help
SEATTLE - This offseason, Julio Lugo discovered his hitting problems since he joined the Red Sox might be a matter of posture. At the urging of batting coach Dave Magadan, Lugo compared tapes of himself from when he played for Tampa Bay with those of the past two seasons.

In the Rays video, Lugo stood with his back straight, his head upright, and his eyes pointed toward the pitcher. In the Sox video, Lugo hunched over the plate, his head cocked to one side, one eye hidden and one eye squinting at the mound. The change occurred gradually and by accident.

``I didn't realize I was doing it,'' Lugo said.

Lugo's 5-for-6 game against the Angels Thursday underscored the improvement his adjustment to his old stance has brought this season. Despite a delayed start to the year and intermittent playing time because of a knee injury, Lugo was hitting .349 and slugging .488 in 43 at-bats entering the series opener against the Mariners. Lugo went 0 for 3 with a walk last night.

``When I came here, I was crushing down a little bit more,'' said Lugo, who is the first Sox hitter to have five hits while batting ninth. ``I couldn't get my bat through the zone. Now I'm standing up more. It seems like I'm seeing the ball better and getting my hands through the ball better.''

Lugo, who has one home run this season, arrived in Boston as a serviceable power-hitting infielder. Lugo bashed 10 or more home runs in four of his first six seasons and slugged .402. In 831 at-bats with the Sox prior to this season, Lugo had hit nine home runs and slugged .343. The changes to his stance, he believes, should return him to his previous numbers.

``I can put better swings on the ball instead of just jabbing at it,'' Lugo said. ``I can drive the ball. I'm not a power hitter, but I can drive the ball, get the ball through the infield. That, I've always been able to do.''

Lugo tries to avoid hitting fly balls. He would rather hit the ball on the ground or on a line. And yet, manager Terry Francona believes one of the best effects of Lugo's stance adjustment is his newfound ability to lift the ball.

``He's actually swung the bat real well since he's been back,'' Francona said. ``He's been hitting the ball in the air, not necessarily fly balls. He's been elevating the ball a little bit on the line, which is good. It means he's able to use his legs. It's a huge contribution.''

Surgery that repaired a torn meniscus Lugo suffered during spring training held him out until April 28. After a week, Francona decided Lugo had returned too hastily and gave him a three-day break from the starting lineup.

His first at-bat back in the starting lineup, Lugo hit a triple. The next day, Lugo's decreased range gave him trouble at shortstop, but he went 2 for 4 with a home run.

``He's had some interruptions,'' Francona said. ``I think it's probably harder than people realize when you come back after a layoff. Your body gets sore. We try to walk that line where we can win games, keep guys healthy, keep guys feeling refreshed.

``Me and Julio have talked about this a number of times. I don't know that we always agree on everything. But we try to explain to him what we think is in everybody's best interest. When you get five hits, we can put the talking out the window.''

The residue of Lugo's injury still affects him. His gait appears stiff, and Lugo said he has not reached the point where he can simply react in the field.

``I'm close to 100 percent now,'' Lugo said. ``It's going to take a little while to get to real game speed. It needs to be real strong, where I pick up all my speed from my first three steps.''

Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 16, 2009

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