His familiar haunts over 12 seasons had been at third base, but with the signing of Adrian Beltre, Lowell found himself in the unenviable position of someone paid to start who was told the bench was his new home.
After undergoing hip surgery following the 2008 season and struggling to field and run as a result, the Red Sox determined that Lowell could not help the club as the starting third baseman.
Instead, Lowell has found another way to help the team even as he holds out hope for a starting job. The 36-year-old has emerged as the designated hitter against left-handers, platooning with David Ortiz.
With the struggles of Big Papi, the bat of Lowell has been much welcome. On Monday night, Lowell went 4-for-4 with three doubles, followed up Tuesday night with a pinch-hit, RBI double to send his season batting average up to .317 with an on-base percentage of .391 and slugging percentage of .512. His .903 OPS on the season would beat out any OPS from his Boston years, save 2007, when he drove in 120 runs and was named World Series MVP.
"He's a professional hitter," Terry Francona said on Tuesday night. "It's nice for me as much as we talk about a balancing act … when you get Mike up there it doesn’t matter who they bring in. It's not easy, but he's ready to hit."
Perhaps it was a good thing Lowell wasn't traded to the Texas Rangers for Max Ramirez in the offseason after all. Without Lowell, the Red Sox might be more hard up for offense, especially against left-handers.
Over Lowell's career, he's tattooed lefties to the tune of a .849 OPS, while right-handers give him a bit more trouble as evidenced by his .798 OPS. That's still a high-quality bat against righties to be sure, but not one demanding of playing time.
As the Red Sox attempt to evaluate their ballclub and snap out of their season-long slump, Lowell has been right there and an easy person for Francona to turn to for a strong bat off the bench.
In fact, he's produced so well there are some clamoring for him to have more playing time. While he won't become a starter anytime soon, the Red Sox certainly must be resting easy knowing they have Lowell in reserve should the worst occur and an opening at first, third or DH (whether via injury or other means) opens up.
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