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Lowell: ‘No idea’ where he’ll be on Opening Day

02.23.10 at 12:34 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell spoke at the team’s minor league training facility on Tuesday. He discussed his health and his status with the team this spring, following an offseason where the team nearly dealt him to the Rangers and then signed Adrian Beltre as his replacement at third.

Lowell, who turns 36 on Wednesday, said that his hip is significantly stronger (by his estimate, by 10 times stronger) than it was last year when he reported. The veteran, who is now in his fifth spring training with the Sox, said that he’s hitting off a tee and a week away from taking batting practice as he continues his recovery from a torn ligament in his right thumb.

The third baseman is fully aware of the Sox’ unsuccessful efforts to trade him this offseason due to the thumb. With the signing of Adrian Beltre, he is also aware that he will surely be available to interested teams. He could not predict whether he would be with the Sox on Opening Day.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I really don’t.”

With no starting job in Boston, Lowell suggested that he is “absolutely” treating spring training like a tryout camp, and that he is more worried about his health than trade possibilities that would depend, after all, on his physical condition. So long as he is healthier than was the case a year ago, when he played 119 games and had 484 plate appearances for the Sox, Lowell did not foresee a need for him to become a bench player. He also said that the Sox have not talked to him about a bench role.

“I’m definitely healthier this year than last,” he said. “I don’t see why I should get less at-bats.”

Lowell did acknowledge that there is lingering discomfort when he runs, but he also noted that speed has never been one of his relevant attributes to those who are evaluating his skills. He feels that he is only a few days behind his teammates in terms of readiness to play, and suggested that if it mattered, he would be physically ready to play when the exhibition season begins. That said, he anticipates lagging slightly behind his teammates in games, but he had no hesitation about whether he will be ready to play at the start of the season.

“I want to stress that I wasn’t stressed [this offseason],” he said. “I’m pretty confident I’m going to be in the big leagues this year.”

Here is some of the transcript of Lowell’s press conference:

  • I’m not really worried about my thumb much. The surgery went really well, the rehab has gone really well. I’ve hit off a tee and I’m assuming within about a week I’m hitting batting practice, so I don’t see that as a major problem.
  • I think my hip is about 10 times stronger than it was last year. I think I was able to use the offseason to strengthen and get flexibility and range of motion and maintain it. I’m pretty optimistic. Dicey? Dicey as your articles want to be, I guess.
  • Strange in the sense that I thought I was going to Texas, yeah that was a little different. I think I’ve been in some rumors before and I think when you’re going on a plane going to Texas it’s a little closer than most time. I realize I really can’t control that so I really haven’t sweated it that much. I was really concentrating on the health aspect. I’m looking at this spring basically like I’ve done the last 14 years. I hang my hat on that I’m healthier at this point in the spring than I was last year and I felt I did a pretty good job when I was in there. I felt last year was the struggle. I think trying to overcome a lot when I basically hadn’t even jogged one time by the time I reported last year. Yeah, it’s definitely weird when you might be going somewhere else and all of that doesn’t pan out, but I guess that’s the way it goes.

  • I’m getting ready for a season. I think I’m pretty intelligent in the sense that there’s no real playing time for me here barring a major injury and I’m not really in the business of hoping somebody gets hurt just so I can get at-bats. For me I’m feeling like I’m more prepared and ready for a full season more than I was last year so why shouldn’t I play more than I did last year whether it’s here or somewhere else. I really can’t control that. I have to separate two things, I think there’s the baseball aspect of it and I think there’s the real-life aspect of it. I’m very comfortable in where I am in my real life. I feel like I’m in a tremendously privileged situation. Nobody needs to feel sorry for me in life. Is my baseball situation not ideal? Yeah, it’s not ideal. I don’t want to diminish the baseball fact, but you never know what can happen. When I left the Marlins I was disappointed and it turned out to be a really good transition for me. We’ll see. You never know what’s going to happen.
  • To some degree, absolutely. If I was on the trading block before I can’t imagine that all of a sudden I’m not now. I think my health is obviously something I need to show not only the Red Sox but every other team. If that opens the door to something else, I’ll go wherever I go or stay wherever I stay.
  • [Asked how he wants to remember time with Sox] I’m not dead … I have a lot of good memories but that doesn’t mean it’s over.
  • (Met with Theo) It was very status quo. We basically could have gone without the meeting and I think I pretty much knew where I stood and knew the way I feel.
  • I’m pretty set that all things were going to come to an end sooner or later. I don’t think I was going to play forever. I really haven’t stopped to think about how I feel. I’m actually excited. It might seem awkward baseball-wise but I actually enjoy being on the field. I like seeing all the guys Ihaven’t seen. I had dinner with Pedroia and Jacoby yesterday. I like that aspect of it. I’m excited to hit on the field and play in games. The competition drives me. Have I enjoyed Boston? Of course I’ve enjoyed Boston, I never said that I haven’t. There’s still six weeks in the spring and things happen whether they go your way or not. Things have pretty much gone my way my whole career. I’ve tried to look at the positive in things and I don’t have any regrets whichever way it’s going to go.
  • I’ve never been approached to say that’s in their plans. Like I said, if I’m definitely healthier at this point than I was last year I don’t see why I should have less at-bats.
  • I don’t think it hurts to show the fact I can play another position. I don’t think that ever hurts. Whether that means I’m more versatile here in Boston or somewhere else … I can’t say Hey, I want to stay, Hey I want to play, or Hey, I want to go. None of those three things are really a factor so I leave it to those people who make those decisions and you guys  will question if it’s a good decision or not.
  • Last year was definitely a step back from what I was used to. I think my hip was capable to do movements but not on an everyday basis. I really believe last year I saw as a big struggle.  Talking to the training staff you get frustrated because the first 10 years of my career, hey I warm up I take batting practice and I go. Last year I think it was about an hour and 15 minute routine that I had to go through to get ready in order to feel like crap. I said I have to go through all of this in order to feel bad. What if I don’t do this, will I keel over? That’s where it became a little bit of a grind but I was satisfied with the numbers I put up. I actually think the last six weeks of the season there was about 15 to 18 games that I didn’t play that I thought I was healthy enough to play because we had that whole logjam at the positions. I feel like I could have put up even better numbers last year.
  • I actually think the last six of weeks of the season, there were about 15 or 18 games where I didn’t play where I thought I was healthy enough to play. We had that whole log-jam. I felt like I could have put up even better numbers last year so that’s why I look at it, as, if I can do that, if I would have been .290, 20 and 85, playing 15 more games, and I’m healthier now, I don’t see why those numbers should be worse.
  • On whether he is disappointed that the team doesn’t want him back as its third baseman: “I don’t think it matters what I feel about that. I know they’re trying to go in a direction where they think the team is better. The player always take a back seat to those decisions. I don’t really feel like I win out in any way saying, what a great decision that was, or this was a poor decision. I’m highly motivated to show that I can play. Where that takes me, I don’t know. I really don’t. we’ll see. There’s some type of curiosity that I have – I’m anxious to see what happens.”
  • On whether he regrets not signing with the Phillies after the 2007 season: “No, no. I might have signed with Philadelphia and gone on a spelunking trip and gotten hurt and that’s against our contracts, so they might have voided the last three years. You never know. They have great caves in Philly so, no, I don’t. I enjoyed Boston. At that point, I was delighted to sign back. We had a competitive team and got to the World Series the next year. how could you say that was a bad decision?”
  • On whether discomfort remains: “Yeah, there’s some discomfort when I run. I don’t feel any pain when I take those first few steps. I think defensively I would feel very comfortable moving around. I felt like I lost a little explosion on the first step, especially going to my left. That’s kind of where I push off with my right hip. But again, I think last offseason, I didn’t have any time to get strength. I think I basically played the whole year in a weakened state, because of the surgery obviously, I think I’ve gone to a point beyond that where that’s not an issue for me right now. is it like I was in ’07? No, there’s still some discomfort running. I’m not Jacoby. I don’t think the running aspect has really been a major issue to any baseball evaluator.”
  • On whether the grind of the season is likely to wear him down: “I’m sure there’s a possibility of anything. I’m not a doctor, can’t rule it out. I didn’t know my thumb was in the situation it was in this offseason so that’s not my diagnosis.”
  • How the thumb injury occurred: “Step by step, I know I hurt it the last weekend on a foul ball against Jeremy Sowers. It swelled up a lot after the game. I went, obviously to the trainers afterward, and said, this swelled up. We iced it down and I had trouble squeezing it back and I didn’t play the last two games of the regular season and I felt some discomfort but you know, it was the postseason. I figured hopefully three more weeks of this and that will be fine. I was told to take it easy and I usually take a couple of weeks off after the season just to do nothing and then I started my weightlifting program and spoke to mikey Reinold. we were in constant communication. I told him when I started lifting weights, I said, hey, my thumb is really not feeling that good when I push, when I’m doing pushing exercises. I just kept reporting that to him and four weeks went by and I said the same thing. More time went by and then, the whole Texas thing came about and they asked for an MRI right away. I guess, definitely a little disappointed with the result of the MRI. I don’t think anyone wants surgery but yeah, the timing of the surgery I don’t think did anyone any favors. If they had the MRI and I had the surgery right after the season, by Thanksgiving you’re fine. And I think the only thing that took away was my hitting preparation prior to Spring Training and now I’m being probably a week behind. I don’t view it as a major issue because I really didn’t swing at all last year with my hip, before I got to the spring. I felt like I was ready from a mechanics standpoint opening day. So I’m not worried about my swing per se, but yeah, it was six weeks where I was in a cast doing nothing. I think strength wise, and all that, from an upper body standpoint, I couldn’t do everything that I wanted to do. So yeah, I would say the timing wasn’t the greatest thing, but I don’t think it’s the end of the world.”
  • Was there an MRI on the thumb before the offseason? “No, and that’s probably the little gray area.”
  • On whether there was disappointment that Texas voided the trade: “I looked at the Texas thing, honestly when I was on the plane flying to Texas, as a pretty good challenge. I thought that team did a lot of good things last year. They were in it basically until the end. It was more, the way at least I viewed it, is I would probably DH a lot and play first a lot and if Michael Young needed a DH, I would probably play third for just a handful of games so I didn’t have a problem with that. I didn’t see that as a bad situation. I thought that was a place where I could fit in the lineup there and I thought I could put up some numbers on a team I thought was going to be competitive so I wasn’t ashamed of going over there. I wasn’t disappointed that might be a possibility of where I landed. It didn’t go through, I was like, alright, it didn’t go through. I want to stress that I wasn’t stressed. I really wasn’t. I think I get the grand scheme of things for me, like what I value and what I don’t — not that I don’t value baseball but I’m pretty confident I’m going to be in the big leagues this year somewhere and I still view that as a privilege to me. Like I said, no one needs to feel sorry for me for the situation of my life right now.”
  • On whether he expects to be with the Sox on Opening Day: I have no idea. I really don’t.
  • On whether he’s tried to figure out other teams that might need him: Absolutely. I think that’s only human nature. Am I going to share that with you? Probably not.
  • On his schedule for playing: Our first game is March 3, which is about a week away – I think if I had to play in that game, I could do it easily. But I think we’ll probably take it slow. So that’s why I say I might be four or five days behind. There was a struggle to swing the bat, when the doc said, hey, just start feeling it. I could feel the tightness and still the swelling in my thumb, and I don’t feel that now. So I think now it’s just increasing the strength a little bit to be able to handle the impact of a ball hitting it. I’ve only done tee work so It’ll be a progression of the toss, and then it’ll be batting practice outside, and once you can do batting practice outside, I don’t view the game as a major step. I actually almost want to get jammed to test it out, but I don’t know how you practice that.
  • Are you actually looking at the rosters of other teams? No, I mean of course there’s teams that could probably use a right-handed bat and could use a guy who can play third, first and DH, but I have no idea what their GM wants. I actually view that as wasted time. I’d rather spend time with my family. I actually get more e-mails from my friends saying check out this article, than me checking out articles. No offense to the brilliant writing of the New England area writers, but I’m not a big ‘check the status of every article’ thing. I actually did that in ’06, when I got traded, and most things that were said about me were pretty negative, so I learned to tune that out. I think I learned that pretty quick.
  • On what he has to offer to a team: I think my numbers were pretty respectable last year, and I think I was capable of playing in more games, and I feel better than I did last year. So I don’t see any reason why, if I had the at-bats, where I could have the ability to put up those numbers, I don’t see any reason why my numbers shouldn’t be better than last year. Which I think basically coincides with what I’ve done. Take away ’07, which was a great year, and take away ’05, which was a bad year. Isn’t that what they do in figure skating? Kill the high, kill the low, and count your average? That’s what you get. My triple lutz. I do the blades of steel. Blades of glory? Blades of glory.
  • Have you talked to Adrian Beltre? I said hi to him today. I hadn’t seen him before. I mean, I know him as a baseball friend. I’ve never had meals with him. But I think he has  an opportunity to make $10 million. I don’t really think he’s worried about it. If I’m him, I don’t not sign on a team because of the other guy. Especially if the organization tells him you’re going to play. I think he made it clear that Theo told him that whether he signed or not, I was not going to play third. I think that makes it a little easier for that guy.
  • Was it awkward for you to see Beltre? I don’t need to see him to know where my status was. I think the writing was on the wall, basically the first day of the winter meetings.
  • How have you been treated by fans? I love the fans. Part of my e-mails are, ‘check out the comments on this article,’ and I tell my wife to check it out, and she says, ‘You know how many people are really on your side in all this?’ I think they’ll be more emotional if Adrian Beltre starts off slow, and they’ll be much less emotional if Adrian Beltre starts off hot. That’s kind of the way it goes. In ’06, I can’t imagine too many people were that excited about me playing third. And then as the season went on, it worked out great, we got a pitcher like Beckett and a guy who can play third every day. Things can change really quickly, but I don’t want to discount the fact that I feel I’ve had tremendous support. And I think the fans appreciate the way I played the last four years in Boston. I think they appreciate someone who comes to play every day, and I think I showed I would play hurt, maybe to the detriment of their eyes, because that blur coming across the screen running the bases was not me. But that’s a very flattering thing, to be honest with you, when the fans feel like there’s an injustice being put on you. That’s a good feeling, when you have the fans on your side, absolutely.
  • Do you think the door is closed on the Rangers? I don’t know. I know they signed Vlady, and I’ve got to believe that Vlad’s there to be the DH, so I really don’t know their roster. I don’t know if I’m a fit there. Could I be? I guess I could. I don’t know. That’d be a great question for Jon Daniels.
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