Sox third baseman says he feels great

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- While the formality of passing a physical is all that remains between the Red Sox and their new shortstop, Marco Scutaro, their incumbent third baseman, Mike Lowell, says he has been unaffected by reports that the Red Sox are exploring trading him.

"I can honestly say I haven't lost a single minute of sleep because of [those reports],'' said Lowell, who was here with his wife, Bertica, to play in David Ortiz's charity golf tournament.

"I'm just happy that I feel so much better than at any time during the season.''

Lowell made his brief comments Thursday night during a reception at the event, but noted that his improved condition is in line with what doctors told him after he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip a year ago, when he was forced to bow out of the playoffs. At that time, he said, doctors told him to expect it would take a full year to recover.

Lowell played in 119 games last season, making one trip to the disabled list on June 30 because of the hip and missing 12 games. The respite seemed to help, as he hit safely in his first 11 games back and wound up hitting .302 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs in his last 51 games. Overall, Lowell hit .290 with 17 home runs and 75 RBIs, all numbers in line with his career performance when projected over a full season.

"I feel like I could have played in another 15 to 20 games,'' he said.

But his mobility in the field, which had deteriorated dramatically prior to surgery, was noticeably limited again last season. That was reflected in defensive statistics that show Lowell ranking last among the 24 players who played 800 or more innings at third base in 2009.

Lowell turns 36 on Feb. 24, raising further questions about whether his age will affect his recovery. A torn labrum leads to arthritic deterioration in the hip.

The labrum is a ridge of cartilage on the outside rim of the socket of the hip joint. As the Mayo Clinic Web site explains it, it acts as a suction cup to help hold the hip joint together. Constant twisting and turning places a great deal of stress on a weight-bearing joint such as the hip.

Such injuries long went undiagnosed, because of the anatomical challenges of scoping the hip; the first hip arthroscopy wasn't performed until the late 1980s.

But Lowell is one of several prominent baseball players to undergo the procedure in the past two years, a list that includes Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, Chase Utley of the Phillies and Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals.

No team in 2009 had an older left side of the infield than the Red Sox will have this season with Lowell and Scutaro, 34, though by midseason next year the Yankees' combination of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will be even older. Jeter turns 36 on June 26, and Rodriguez will be 35 on July 27.

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. Follow him on Twitter.