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Lowrie looks to move forward

02.20.10 at 9:59 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. –By his own admission, the 2009 season was a challenging one for infielder Jed Lowrie. The 25-year-old admitted that the frustrations were numerous, beginning with the fact that he learned in April that the broken bone in his left wrist following the 2008 season had not fully healed and would require surgery.

Lowrie then had the ulna styloid completely removed — a procedure without known precedent for a major-league baseball player, since the small bone is more often repaired and screwed into place — leaving him out for several months. When he began his rehab at Triple A Pawtucket, Lowrie started well but then after a few games encountered discomfort and numbness on check swings and then, increasingly, in routine baseball activities.

“My wrist just wasn’t in shape last year. I just wasn’t ready to be an everyday player. I feel right now that I’m on that track and it’s getting better everyday,” said Lowrie. “I did everything I could to be on the field, and nothing worked. That was probably the most frustrating part, because we tried so many different things and nothing worked.”

He did return to the field late in the year, but the results suggested a player whose readiness to play was somewhat in doubt. In 32 games, Lowrie hit .147 with a .211 OBP, .265 slugging mark and .476 OPS, all a terrible disappointment given both the promise he had shown in his rookie year and his performance last March as arguably the top hitter in his team’s spring training camp.

On Saturday morning, Lowrie arrived at the team’s minor league training facility following an offseason spent under the supervision of medical trainers. He worked both with a hockey trainer in Toronto (where Lowrie was living with his fiancee) and a tennis trainer in the Tampa Bay area (where he worked out starting in mid-January), both of whom helped him to devise a treatment plan that might address the struggles of the previous year.

Lowrie suggested that he feels that he has a better sense of what he needs to do to stay healthy in order to get his career once again moving forward.

“I think we went down the wrong path last year. We never really figured out what was going on,” he said. “We never really got on a path that worked last year. I feel like I had a chance this offseason to kind of reset and find that way.

“I played all of 2008 with a broken wrist. I don’t feel like I need to prove I’m tough enough. I just need to get healthy.”

Yet whereas Lowrie succeeded in his opportunity to win the everyday job as shortstop over Julio Lugo last year (his performance would have won him the role even had Lugo not undergone surgery in mid-March), this year, there are no certain openings on the major league roster. Marco Scutaro was signed to be the everyday shortstop, with Sox GM Theo Epstein saying at the time that the team believed in Lowrie’s talent, but had to see him prove an ability to stay healthy at the big league level. There is the possibility of a reserve role for the versatile Lowrie, who has played short, second and third, and whose switch-hitting could also prove useful for a club whose starting infielders (Scutaro, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, Dustin Pedroia) are all right-handed.

But, the possibility also exists that the Sox could determine that the best thing for Lowrie, after last year’s lost development time, would be to play everyday in Triple A Pawtucket. Lowrie resisted saying whether he viewed that possibility as a better or worse option than a major league bench role. Instead, he said that he wanted to keep an “open dialogue” with the club to determine what would be better for his career, not just in 2010 but for the long haul.

“You can look at this season as a rebound season, but I’m looking to have a long career. I’m not looking to just have one season,” said Lowrie. “Every year that I come into camp, I want to be the starting shortstop. I don’t look at it as just this year, all or nothing. I look at it as, I want to build a career. That’s why I want to make sure that I fix this and I get this right. I’m not looking at it from just a this-year standpoint.”

Because of that broad view, Lowrie was able to find some hint of a silver lining from a 2009 season that otherwise challenged him in any number of ways.

“I never gave up. I could have easily just said, ‘I’m done for the year.’ There were a lot of times when I felt that way, where my wrist just wasn’t responding. But I never stopped trying,” said Lowrie. “That’s what I’m most proud of last year. I kept to the grind and did everything I could to get back on the field.”

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