Red Sox Trying to Patch up Lowell’s Hole

Red Sox Trying to Patch up Lowell's Hole Tonight five of his Red Sox teammates will be introduced to the crowd at Busch Stadium in St. Louis as All-Stars. But Mike Lowell
won’t be among them. He represented the Sox at the 2007 All-Star Game,
going 1-for-1 with a run scored in the American League’s 5-4 win.

That victory gave the Sox home-field advantage in the World Series
that fall, as they steamrolled the Colorado Rockies in four games for
their second championship in four seasons.

Lowell hit .400 (6-for-15) with a home run, four RBIs, six runs
scored, a .500 on-base percentage, and .800 slugging percentage, on his
way to being named Series MVP.

That offseason, as a free agent, he signed a three-year, $37.5
million contract, less than reported offers from other teams. This
offseason, after undergoing hip surgery in October while the Sox missed
the World Series by one game, he listened to trade rumors that would
have Mark Teixeira in a Sox uniform and Lowell somewhere else.

He acknowledged he wasn’t happy about the rumors, but he understood.

“You feel hurt, but it’s a human reaction anyone would have,” Lowell
said back in spring training. “It just goes to show you that there are
some times when it’s a business, so you have to treat it that way. You
go from there. It doesn’t take away any excitement or from the guys I
play with on the field. I want the chance to win a World Series. There
aren’t too many people who can say that, even in the big leagues. But
it wasn’t the greatest process in the world.”

Those trades never happened, and Lowell, surgically repaired hip and
all, played in 44 of the Sox’ first 45 games in ‘09, 68 in all before
being placed on the disabled list June 30 with a right hip strain, and
receiving an injection of Synvisc, a liquid lubricant into his hip.

In 68 games before leaving the lineup, he was hitting .282 with 10
home runs and 41 RBIs. If the discomfort had flared later in the
season, Lowell said he might have played through it.

“If it was September, after the shot, and we needed these games and
I played I don’t think I’d be feeling as good as I do now,” he said
late last week. “But under the circumstances, yeah, I think it was the
right decision. I think a lot of things play into that. I think the way
we were playing, the schedule, the fact that we’re stealing four more
days and not missing games with the All-Star break, I think all those
things were in my favor in order to go on the DL.”

Lowell, who turned 35 in February, could be activated Friday for the
start of the second half of the season and the series in Toronto.
Manager Terry Francona said a “worst-case scenario” would see Lowell activated Saturday.

The Sox have gone 8-6 in his absence.

“A healthy Lowell is just one more fricking guy that you got to get
out with men in scoring position,” said one scout. “That’s the thing
for me. I can’t stand the fact that for us every time he’s up they have
men on base. And [teams] pitch differently, like a lot of people do,
with men on base. But he knows how to drive runs in. That’s what you’re
missing [with him out].”

But, it’s not just offensively that Lowell is valuable to the Sox.

“It’s pretty amazing watching him over there [at third base],” said
the scout. “It’s incredible. He’s got one leg practically. He can’t
move, and still he makes those plays. If he gets his glove on it,
you’re out.

“For me, you’re missing two things. You’re missing the fact that a
healthy Lowell gets a glove on it and you’re out. And now you’re taking
away those RBIs if he gets hurt. If you’re an RBI  threat, you create
so much of a different angle in the lineup, because you can’t pitch
around the guy. You’ve got to be careful, if he gets on a roll, if the
matchup’s bad, you’re [in trouble]. You take all that out, it affects
your lineup, and it only makes it easier on [other teams].”

Lowell, who took batting practice Friday for the first time since he
went on the DL,  reported that his hip has felt more comfortable while
running than at any point in the season. This weekend, he said he has
felt no pain in the area. He plans to take part in the team’s workout
in Toronto on Thursday, saying he has had no limitations on his
activities.

“Nothing really, [but] I’m not going to go surfing or anything,” he
said. “My lateral movement has been fine, taking the ground balls. It
was one step that they wanted to see. Not so much moving there, but
making the throw afterwards and I was fine. So, I’m pretty excited.”

When Lowell is activated, it will be with a much more conservative playing schedule than he saw in the first half of the season.

“I think there were some days, looking back, when we should have
interceded and said, ‘Mike, you’re not playing today,’” Francona said.
“Saying that,  he felt good, and to be honest,  I don’t know that it
would have helped. Sometimes, I think you get in the way of players by
resting them when they don’t need it. Now that we’ve gotten to this
point, I’m not going to let him talk me into [letting him play]. There
will be some forced days off in the second half, for sure.

“We’ll try to pick spots where it works for everybody.”

Lowell understands.

“I don’t think I’m going to play 60 in a row,” he said. “Probably
day games after night games will be the ones that are closely
monitored.”

Now, getting closer to the July 31 trade deadline, Lowell is likely
to hear more rumors.  Until he can show them just how strong his hip
is, the Sox are scouting players in case Lowell must miss more time
than is planned.

He understands that, too.

“I understand this is a business,’’ he said. “I’d want to check
everything I can, also.  I’ve been dealing with that for a long time.’’

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