Tag:Mike Lowell
Posted on: April 8, 2010 12:02 am
Edited on: April 8, 2010 12:15 am

Boston's delicate Ortiz situation

The last thing the Red Sox need this early in the season is a full-blown crisis with designated hitter David Ortiz, but they're teetering on the brink of one.

Yes, it would have made sense on paper for manager Terry Francona to use right-handed hitter Mike Lowell as his designated hitter against Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte on Wednesday instead of Ortiz, who staggered into the game 0-for-7 and already is showing signs of stress by profanely lashing out at reporters after Tuesday's loss.

But Francona isn't managing on paper and, right now, he's not even managing for one night.

He's managing for the rest of the season. And one man he cannot lose in 2010 is Ortiz.

At least, not until an apparently deteriorating Ortiz reaches the point of no return.

And two or three games into a season is not that point.

One month ago, during a conversation in Francona's spring training office, we talked about the possibility of Boston using Lowell as a DH in certain situations. You know, platooning with Ortiz.

"I really don't want to look at [Ortiz] like that," Francona said. "He's our full-time DH. For us to be as good as we want to be, if he is the full-time DH, we're probably a better team.

"If we ever got to the point where he wasn't, something went wrong. That's not what we're looking for."

That's especially not what the Red Sox are looking for two and three games into the season.

Ortiz was hitting .367 against Pettitte over his career when Wednesday night's game started. Lowell was at .345 against Pettitte.

Ortiz struggled badly against lefties last year, going .212 against them with a .298 on-base percentage. The Sox were -- and are -- hoping that those numbers are simply a manifestation of his overall struggles last year and nothing more. Career, including last year, Ortiz is hitting .261 with a .337 OBP against lefties.

"You get into some bad habits, and he was trying to cheat to get to pitches anyway ... you start doing that with lefties, now it opens up both sides of the plate," Francona said this spring. "Because David, I think, career-wise his numbers certainly are lower against left-handers, but they were still dangerous.

"If he's hitting, he's going to hit. We usually pick a guy who he doesn't see well off of to give him a day off, anyway. That's not a problem.

"But we don't want to turn him into a platoon player."

Starting Lowell in place of Ortiz on Wednesday maybe would have made sense, given what has to be considered an alarming start for Ortiz (even if he doesn't see it that way).

But that would have sent a distressing signal to Ortiz, who could easily read that as an early vote of no confidence, and it would have needlessly fueled the Ortiz/Lowell platoon DH debate that is in the beginning stages.

"In my opinion, tonight would have been a good night to play Lowell," Francona told reporters in Boston before the game. "It would have been a bad night not to play David.

"Since they won't give us two DH's, I kind of have to make a decision."

You bet that decision will be to back Ortiz, and to do everything he can think of to get Big Papi going.

As it was, Ortiz went 1-for-4 in Wednesday's 3-1, 10-inning loss. He singled home Boston's only run, but he struck out twice and grounded out in his other three at-bats.

He's now hitting .091 for the season, and while he's even losing support in Fenway Park, he's right, it's still way too early to render any final judgments.

And Francona is right in that Wednesday night would have been a bad night not to play Ortiz.

As the manager said one month ago, if the Red Sox reach the point where Ortiz isn't the full-time DH, then something went wrong.

Three games into the season, it's a little early for things to go permanently wrong.

Isn't it?

Posted on: March 8, 2010 11:56 pm

The Beltre-Lowell tango in Boston

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Not long after third baseman Adrian Beltre arrived at his new home, he and Mike Lowell had a talk. It wasn't a major summit. The two were simply out on one of the practice fields when Lowell approached him, the two said hello and they then carefully broached the 800-pound elephant in the infield.

Lowell, 36 and recovering from thumb surgery, is being moved out to the Shady Acres Rest Home by the Red Sox.

Beltre, who will turn 31 on April 7 and is signed to a one-year, $10 million deal for 2010 with a player option for 2011, is replacing him.

The complicating factor, of course, is that Boston had Lowell traded to Texas over the winter but the Rangers nixed the trade after Lowell failed the physical because of the thumb.

So Lowell, due $12 million this year, is rehabbing while in a holding pattern. The Red Sox quietly pray he shows enough this exhibition season that they'll be able to trade him.

"Most people probably think it's uncomfortable," Beltre says. "But for us, not at all."

That the two are co-existing this spring is a tribute to Lowell's class and grace as one of the club's elder statesmen, and to Beltre's ability to walk gingerly through what is undoubtedly, at times, an uneasy start with his new employer.

"It's not easy," Beltre says. "He's been one of the best third basemen in the big leagues for the last 10 years. I've been a big fan of his. For me, he has one of the best [sets of] hands of any third baseman. It's just a situation where he's been hurt the last couple of years. ... It's not easy to be in his situation. Everybody knows he can play.

"We both want what's best. He wants to play. I want to play."

Lowell was the MVP of the 2007 World Series. He's been a good player for the Red Sox and pure class in the clubhouse. Yet, he committed the cardinal sin of getting older and breaking down. The hip. The thumb. The gray hairs.

He's a fan favorite and beloved by the Red Sox. But, hey, it's a business.

"He's a guy we really respect," manager Terry Francona says. "It can be a little bit difficult, to be honest with you. He's a guy who's earned that. He's been in the game a long time. All those things we talk about loyalty, he's earned it.

"Then, as an organization, we make decisions and they can be hard on guys sometimes. I think they really recognize that.

"So we just try to handle it the best we can. That's about as honest as I can be about that. Sometimes our evaluation doesn't match the player's evaluation And we understand that, too. And they can't. They never do. Anywhere."

Likes: Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia barking good naturedly at somebody across the clubhouse the minute I opened the door at 8 a.m. the other morning. The guy never stops, even before the coffee has kicked in. ... You've got to pull for young Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the nicest guys in the game. ... Long-time Boston radio man Jonny Miller, who always has asked all the hard questions for WBZ and whose non-stop work in the face of nasty back problems is an inspiration. ... I'm perfectly fine with The Hurt Locker winning the Oscar for best picture. I'm really, really happy Avatar, the most overrated flick of the year, didn't win. ... The Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons opening the boys' basketball District Tournament this week at Blissfield. Go get 'em, Falcons.

Dislikes: Exhibition games have barely started and, already, players are dropping left and right: St. Louis' MVP Albert Pujols (back), Minnesota closer Joe Nathan (elbow), Cubs reliever Angel Guzman (shoulder), Dodgers catcher Russell Martin (groin) and Kansas City third baseman Alex Gordon (broken finger) for starters. Martin is probably out four-to-six weeks minimum. Gordon is expected to miss at least two or three weeks. Guzman probably will be sidelined for the entire season and the Twins continue to hold their breath on Nathan. Meantime, the Cards say they aren't concerned with Pujols. Yet. Yikes.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"If midnight is an awful hour
"Baby, why does it come so soon?
"If midnight is an awful hour
"Baby, why does it come so soon?
"It never brings me happiness
"Always leaves me filled with gloom"

-- B.B. King, Midnight Blues

Posted on: January 4, 2010 8:09 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2010 9:15 pm

Beltre agrees to deal with Red Sox

The Red Sox are on the verge of adding a new third baseman, agreeing to the framework of a one-year deal with Adrian Beltre for roughly $9 million, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

The deal, contingent on Beltre passing a physical examination and with a vesting option for a second year that is believed to be worth $5 million, is another move toward general manager Theo Epstein's goal of improving Boston's defense without taking away from run production. Beltre is a two-time Gold Glove winner who batted .265 with eight homers and 44 RBI last season in Seattle.

Boston clearly was headed in a different direction at third base for 2010, and the failed Mike Lowell trade to Texas didn't deter the Sox.

At 30, Beltre is five years younger than Lowell. And though Beltre long since has lost his 48-homer power (his career-high came in 2004, his last season with the Dodgers), the thinking is his offensive numbers should improve in Fenway Park as opposed to Seattle's pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Until he was slowed by a groin injury that limited him to 111 games last summer, Beltre had hit 25, 26 and 25 home runs over the previous three seasons.

Spring training in Fort Myers could be awkward if the Red Sox are unable to trade Lowell before he theoretically proves this spring that his surgically repaired thumb is healthy. The trade with Texas -- which still could be renewed -- was nixed by the Rangers when physicians determined that Lowell was in need of surgery.

Lowell underwent thumb surgery last week, and recovery time is expected to be six-to-eight weeks. It is still expected that the Red Sox will trade him, it's just a question of whether it happens before or during spring training.

Posted on: December 19, 2009 10:24 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2009 10:30 pm

Boston, Texas deal for Lowell falls apart

One of the more intriguing trade agreements from the winter meetings earlier this month in Indianapolis fell apart Saturday when the Rangers nixed the proposed Mike Lowell deal because of the third baseman's thumb injury, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

An examination of Lowell by specialists revealed that the injury, suffered late in the season, remains a problem: Lowell, according to sources, was found to have a torn radial collateral ligament in his right thumb, an injury that will require surgery following the holidays. Expected recovery time is six to eight weeks, which would mean that Lowell should be ready for spring training but might have to start slowly.

As part of the extensive physical examination the Rangers conducted, Lowell saw a hand specialist in Arizona on Friday and then met with other physicians in Arlington, Tex., on Saturday. The Rangers learned enough to scotch a deal that would have sent minor league catcher Max Ramirez and $3 million in cash to Boston with the Red Sox covering $9 million of Lowell's $12 million 2010 salary.

The Rangers have been looking for a middle-of-the-lineup bat and were hoping to use Lowell, who will be 36 on opening day, as a part-time designated hitter, first baseman and even spot him in at third base to give Michael Young the occasional day off.

Lowell, however, has an extensive injury history, most recently the thumb and a troublesome right hip. He underwent surgery on that, for a torn labrum, following the 2008 season. It was because of these two injuries in particular that the Rangers moved along at such a deliberate pace. While the framework of this deal was set in Indianapolis, officials from both clubs cautioned that several things needed to happen before it would be done.

Saturday's news is highly inconvenient for the Red Sox, who were hoping to move Lowell, clearing room for them to do two things: Add a middle-of-the-order bat who also upgrades the club defensively. Among other options, Boston has been courting free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre and keeping in touch with the Padres regarding a possible Adrian Gonzalez deal.

In the latter, which sources say remains an point of intrigue for Boston but is not close to happening, Gonzalez could play first base and Kevin Youkilis would slide over to third.

But the development with Lowell's thumb now will make it impossible for the Red Sox to deal him before spring training. Clubs with any interest will want to see him play first and make sure he's healthy. Lowell batted .290 with 17 homers and 75 RBIs for the Sox in '09 but hurt his thumb taking batting practice during the season's final week.

The news also isn't good for the Rangers, who are trying to add a strong right-handed bat but don't have much money. The club is up for sale amid owner Tom Hicks' serious financial problems. With Boston paying much of the freight for Lowell, the Rangers had found a fairly creative way to improve inexpensively.

Now, without Lowell, the Rangers will look elsewhere -- possibly to designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, whose run with the Angels has all but come to an official end with Hideki Matsui joining them last week. Texas also is interested in free agent outfielder Jermaine Dye, but unless his demand decrease, the Rangers probably won't be able to be a player there.

Posted on: December 10, 2009 12:17 am
Edited on: December 10, 2009 1:41 am

Rangers exploring deal for Boston's Lowell

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Rangers and Red Sox are exploring a potential deal that would send third baseman Mike Lowell to Texas, and discussions have moved past the inquiry stage and turned serious, a source close to the negotiations told CBSSports.com on Wednesday night.

Lowell would go to Texas for minor-league catcher Max Ramirez. The Red Sox would pick up the tab on either the entire $12 million salary due Lowell in 2010, or almost all of it.

"I can't say that it's going to happen," the source said. "But there are discussions."

The Rangers want to add a right-handed bat but are limited by owner Tom Hicks' financial trouble as to what they can do. There was speculation earlier this winter that they would go after free agent outfielder Jermaine Dye, but he's currently looking for a multi-year deal worth $8 to $9 million a season, and one Rangers' source said that's too far out of their range.

As for Lowell, though he will be 36 on opening day in 2010 and underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip before the '09 season, he hit 17 homers and collected 75 RBI for the Red Sox last summer. The Rangers would move him around, spotting him at first base, third base and designated hitter in an effort to keep him fresh and his hip healthy.

The purpose of moving Lowell for the Red Sox would be to clear space in the lineup for the addition of another big addition. It is not a salary dump, because Boston would still be paying most of the freight for Lowell.

The replacement for Lowell could wind up being free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre. Boston is described as being "in the mix" for Beltre by a source close to the third baseman, who is looking for a multi-year contract. The Red Sox also could attempt to resurrect trade talks for San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez -- or add a different first baseman -- and move Kevin Youkilis over to third.

Posted on: October 3, 2008 7:02 pm

Boston: Lowell out, Kotsay in for Game 2

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Boston manager Terry Francona's Game 2 lineup is in, and injured third baseman Mike Lowell is not in it.

Instead, the Red Sox will move Kevin Youklis to third base and have slotted Mark Kotsay at first. Also, Alex Cora is playing shortstop instead of Jed Lowrie.

Francona said removing Lowell, whose partially torn labrum in his right hip has reduced his effectiveness, was an agonizingly difficult decision. However, it was not a surprising decision when you consider the numbers.

Kotsay, who has struggled with the Red Sox, has a history of blistering Angels Game 2 starter Ervin Santana. Lifetime, Kotsay is 7-for-18 (.389) against Santana.

"That was a hard one for me," Francona said of removing Lowell. The manager said Lowell's condition did not worsen since Game 1, but that it is obvious he's "hurting."

"Getting to that decision was hard for me," Francona said. "That was a tough one."

As for Cora, Francona said he was leaning toward playing Cora in Game 2 entering the series.

"Just style of pitching," Francona said. "Ervin Santana, the way Cora swung, the way Lowrie swung at certain types of pitchers.

"I was leaning more toward that anyway, but you don't need to make that decision until you need to."

Cora has two hits in three lifetime at-bats against Santana. Lowrie has never faced him.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia, meanwhile, is going with catcher Jeff Mathis instead of Mike Napoli in Game 2. Santana was 14-4 with a 2.88 ERA this season when pitching to Mathis (16-6, 3.21 ERA overall).

Posted on: September 30, 2008 5:54 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2008 5:55 pm

Red Sox encouraged by Lowell during workout

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The early word on Boston's myriad health issues Tuesday was "encouraging", as Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, as the club prepared for Game 1 of its American League Divisional Series with the Angels here Wednesday.

The Red Sox's main worry, for the time being, is third baseman Mike Lowell, who has struggled with a partially torn labrum in his right hip. Lowell seemed to move around reasonably well in Tuesday's workout, and though they still likely won't determine whether he can play in Game 1 until Wednesday, they're more optimistic now than they were.

"It was encouraging the way he moved around, or the moving he did do," Francona said about two-thirds of the way through Boston's workout. "It didn't grab at him, and that's very encouraging."

Regarding Boston's two other key injuries, outfielder J.D. Drew (strained lower back) "looked pretty good", Francona said. And starter Josh Beckett (strained oblique) is still on track to start Game 3 on Sunday in Boston.

"He threw from 60 feet, 30 throws, then threw from 90 feet, 20 throws, then moved back and threw again from 60 feet," Francona said. "The ball came out of his hand very well."

Beckett is scheduled to throw long toss Wednesday and then throw a side session in the bullpen Thursday.

As for Lowell, he's retaining hope.

"I would love to play," he said before Wednesday's workout. "It's going to be fairly simple. If I can make plays and move around, I think I will. If I can't, I won't.

"I feel great sitting around. Doing nothing, I feel fantastic. But until we're sitting on the couch and that's what it takes to play baseball. ..."

It isn't, and especially against an Angels team that is as aggressive as any club in the majors. That's why Lowell's mobility -- or lack of -- is as important as anything else as Francona makes his decisions in this series. The Angels will bunt, take the extra base, make the Red Sox make plays.

Which could be to the detriment of Lowell, if his hip injury keeps him several steps slow. Lowell said it doesn't hurt to hit, but Francona quickly shot down the idea of using Lowell as his designated hitter and David Ortiz at first base because of the way the Angels play.

"He's one of the best defensive third basemen in the game," Francona said of Lowell. "If he can move and he's not in agony, if he can position himself, I think we're a better team with him at third base. If we have to move (Kevin Youklis) over and have to play somebody else at first base. ..."

If so, that's probably not the Red Sox's best option. But it might become their most realistic option.

Lowell said that Boston cannot worry about its banged-up players, that the show must go on.

"If some key guys are out and we're not at full strength, I don't think that will determine whether we can win this series," Lowell said. "Whoever executes better and plays well, that will determine if you win the series."

Francona said the club will not determine its final roster for the divisional series until late Tuesday night or, possibly, Wednesday morning. He planned to meet with front office officials back at the team hotel later Tuesday for more discussion.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com