NEW YORK — When his name was not in the lineup against a left-handed pitcher Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, Mike Lowell sensed that his diminished role with the Red Sox had been reduced to next-to-nothing. It appears as if a fragile situation has reached a head.
"It’s become evident I don’t really have a role on the team," Lowell said in the Red Sox clubhouse on Tuesday.
Lowell, who has made just one start since May 11, has started to see his spot on the 25-man roster as a "wasted" one, and figures that when the team sees the returns of ailing outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, it will be even less important to the squad.
When asked if he had considered requesting an outright release, the former World Series MVP admitted it had popped into his head as the DNP’s pile high.
"I think that’s a normal train of thought," he said. "Is that something that would happen? I haven’t looked that deep into it."
For about a month of the season, from roughly mid-April until the Red Sox’ recent 10-game homestand, Lowell and David Ortiz had platooned at the designated hitter spot. When Lowell was not penciled in to face CC Sabathia, against whom he has a higher average than Ortiz, it became more and more clear to him that he could not even bank on a platoon situation anymore.
Since going 5-for-8 with five RBIs and three walks in splitting time with Ortiz during a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim earlier this month, Lowell has played sparingly, appearing in just five of the team’s 10 games, and starting only three.
Ever the professional, Lowell has taken to rooting harder for Ortiz, even while lamenting his lack of playing time.
"I actually believe it’s right to keep him in the lineup," Lowell said of Ortiz, who is batting .348 with six home runs in May. "That’s what you have to do, that’s how you get guys hot. He can carry a team for two to three weeks, he really can. He has that ability.
"On the flip side, I don’t think I’ve played three consecutive days all year."
Essentially, Lowell is wondering if he will ever get the chance Ortiz has had to get hot. For that, he needs consistent playing time.
"I don’t think I’m a guy that’s gonna wow you," Lowell added. "In [batting practice], I’m not going to hit the ball 40 rows deep. My strength is my consistency."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was asked about Lowell’s frustrations, but immediately shot back at the inquiring reporter, saying "He hasn’t talked to me," and adding nothing more.
It appears as if a situation Francona had to handle with kid gloves — juggling the roles and egos of two franchise heroes — now has the potential to become a headache.
Lowell’s 2010 contract is $12 million. He admitted that the team may be hesitant about eating the remainder if it was to release him. In addition, he remains "in limbo" without getting a chance to prove to other teams he can still play. He told reporters that not being able to showcase the fact that his surgically-repaired hip feels better has "hurt" his chances to move on, if that is in fact in the best interest of the Red Sox organization.
It has left the 36-year-old scratching his head, wondering when and where his next full-time gig will occur. He’s less and less convinced it will be in Boston.
"I just don’t see a role. It just seems that roster spot could be used," Lowell said. "This situation here, I just don’t see it being very good."
Part of that has to do with the Red Sox’ rough start. Lowell admitted that not having a role on a 19-20 squad has hurt a whole lot more than it would on previous Boston teams which were accustomed to being at or near the top of the American League East, rather than in fourth place and closer to last than first.
For now, Lowell is reduced to an increasingly limited role on a losing team, and as his playing time decreases, the frustration builds.