Mike Lowell can't catch a break. First, his right hip betrays him. Now, he has a gimpy leg after fouling a pitch off his left knee.
All these bumps and bruises aren't making the veteran third baseman look any more like Eddie Matthews, Jimmy Collins or Mike Schmidt to potential trade suitors. But perhaps the health issues are a blessing. Perhaps they are what will keep Lowell in Boston. Perhaps, the hiccup in his giddy-up will be enough to scare away teams and prevent the Red Sox from making a deal to ship him out of town.
The Mike Lowell Trade Watch isn't like Winter Storm Watch — it doesn't end when the calendar turns to spring.
Maybe it should.
World Series MVPs who are .280 lifetime hitters and average 23 home runs with 98 RBIs per season are hard to come by.
Is it worth giving up a fearsome pinch-hitter Terry Francona can call off the bench to face a left-hander or right-hander in the late innings of a close game?
Is it worth cutting loose a player who could fill in at first base, third base or designated hitter when Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre or David Ortiz needs a rest?
Is it worth getting rid of veteran leadership?
The Red Sox have asked themselves all of those questions — and probably more — but they might want to review Lowell's body of work one more time.
So what if he hasn’t exactly hit the cover off the ball in Florida this March. So what if Abe Vigoda might challenge him in a footrace.
Lowell is a known commodity. He has produced in Boston. He feels right at home at Fenway.
Adrian Beltre, Lowell's replacement at third, is a question mark. He's a good player, but he's never played for the home team in Boston. He could be a huge hit at the plate. He also could struggle. Nobody knows for sure. There are no guarantees.
Of course, the Red Sox want Beltre to be secure. They don't want him to have to look over his shoulder or feel threatened by Lowell (that's one of the reasons the team is shopping him). But Lowell is a true professional. He could adapt to whatever role he’s given. He might not like being second-string, but he would do his best to be the best second-stringer in the history of baseball.
Then, there’s Big Papi. Everyone in Red Sox Nation is rooting for David Ortiz to hit 10 home runs in April, but if he starts slow again, having Lowell in reserve would be a boon.
Lowell hit. 290 with 17 home runs and 75 RBIs in 445 at-bats last season, after having hip surgery. He’s accepted that he’s not going to be the bionic man, but as long as he still has a uniform and can put good swings on the ball, he can be a solid contributor for the Red Sox.
Most teams can't afford to keep a player like Lowell on the roster without having a clearly defined position for him. The Red Sox can. They shouldn't view the 36-year-old as a burden or an albatross. He's a luxury.
Call it the Mike Lowell Protection Plan.
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