In his four years with the Red Sox, Mike Lowell has been a silent benefactor.
He arrived in Boston back in 2005, complements of Josh Beckett and an offseason trade that sent prize shortstop Hanley Ramirez to the Marlins. Florida was willing to jettison their salary load, namely Mike Lowell. The addition figured largely in the future success of Boston.
For all intents and purposes, Lowell has struggled through injury. He broke his hand with the Marlins in ‘04, but returned in ‘05, winning a Gold Glove at third base, with a puny .236 batting average. He made the All-Star team in ’07, slugged a gaudy .514 against right-handers (.466 vs. LHP), but suffered a torn hip labrum the following year. With age, Lowell has seen his playtime diminish, but has always remained a constant professional.
It comes as no surprise that Mike Lowell is once again at Theo’s doorstep. He arrived unannounced as the redheaded stepchild, and quickly developed into a fan favorite. But as the burly third baseman turns 36 this upcoming season, Epstein sees less of a role for his services. So this offseason, he tried to trade him. Not once, but twice, last dealing with the Texas Rangers for farmhand catcher Max Ramirez. But after Lowell’s ailing right thumb failed a physical, he came back to Boston. He had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament December 30th, and is expected to fully recover by pre-season.
“I think his goal and our goal is for him to come to Spring Training and get back on the field and demonstrate his health and start playing again and playing well,” said Red Sox GM Theo Epstein at a recent press conference. Notably, Epstein was quoted during the Adrian Beltre media housewarming, flanked along side the new Sox third baseman, and his agent Scott Boras.
“He’s going to be a sought-after player and we’ll probably be able to put Mike in a situation either here or elsewhere where he can really make an impact on the team.”
The Red Sox have made it clear that the days of Mr. Salt N’ Pepper are limited (Lowell is known for his silver-seasoned hair style and beard). But why? Lowell’s never been a disappointing hitter. Even with an undersized average, he’s always pick up the slack somewhere else, especially on defense. He’s a true clubhouse guy, and he’s been a part of the power hitting 3-4-5 group for years, even while batting in the seventh slot last season. After surgery, Lowell will come back and have something to prove. In the meantime, there is no dissent from his view.
Mike Lowell is a constant professional, and exactly what the Red Sox need right now. Experience has made him a sensible, veteran ball player. He’s the stalwart of Theo’s residual champions. He’s the hedge for question marks like David Ortiz, and Beltre, who are both big uncertainties for the upcoming season. He’s coming off one of his best defensive seasons with the Red Sox, and wants to stay with this team.
Just as Assistant GM Ben Cherington, who told NESN reporters last month the Sox had little knowledge of Lowell’s thumb ailments:
“It was toward the end of the year, we were trying to get ready for the playoffs so we didn’t want to take any chances, give him some time off to get rested. And even at the end of the playoffs, in our exit physical, he barely made mention of it.”
I don’t mean to be Nosey Parker, but was Lowell consciously hiding an injury to stay on the team? All ambiguous questions will soon be answered, when the team convenes in Fort Myers February 20th for the first work out. Whether Lowell is 100% ready by the start of Spring Training, he’s still an important part of the team moving forward, and a solid reserve at third base. He also does a great interview. For now, Theo Epstein can speak for anyone in saying, he’s right where he needs to be.
“It’ll be better in Boston than anywhere else, [with] the way he feels about the Red Sox and the way we feel about him.