Lowell hopes rest will improve hip
DENVER -- The Red Sox left Mike Lowell with a narrow range of options. He could soldier on, even though his pitiful performance had left him, by his own admission, with a "guilty conscience" and "embarrassed," or he could go on the 15-day disabled list because of his surgically repaired right hip.
There were no other options, according to his agent, Seth Levinson.
"The Red Sox have on innumerable occasions made it painfully clear that they will NOT [emphasis Levinson's] grant Mike his release nor will they designate him for assignment," Levinson wrote in an e-mail Thursday night. "There are only two practical options: trade or DL."
With little hope of a trade materializing, and saying that he was deeply troubled by how poorly he ran down the first-base line after grounding out to end Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to the Rockies, Lowell said he texted manager Terry Francona about an hour after the game. He informed Francona, he said, that he'd felt a "twinge" in his hip while taking some swings during a session of soft toss with staff assistant Ino Guerrero earlier that day.
That phone call apparently set into motion the process that culminated Thursday with Lowell going on the DL, the corollary roster move allowing the Sox to activate pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka for that night's start against the Rockies.
Lowell had told reporters after Tuesday's game, when asked if his hip felt OK running down the basepath, "I feel great."
Thursday afternoon, while meeting with reporters to discuss his situation, Lowell claimed he was too distraught that night to be more forthcoming in his response.
"I was a little bit upset at the way the game turned out," Lowell said. "I took about an hour to text Tito and I told him I had to get over how upset I was. I think it was more that. I had a chance to do something Tuesday night. If you have four at-bats and [Colorado shortstop Clint] Barmes steals one, you have three more to make up for it. But when you're pinch hitting, it's all or nothing. I think that's the tough part about it.''
While Lowell insisted that Tuesday's "twinge" created a level of discomfort he has not felt previously this season, he also acknowledged that the decision to go on the DL would have been more difficult if he were playing regularly.
"I think it would have," said Lowell, explaining that he might have been more willing to undergo cortisone injections, like the one he had in spring training, if they would keep him playing.
"That's the back and forth I go with," he said. "I think if you're playing every day, you're willing to do a lot more. I think that's human nature."
Lowell has made just 18 starts in the team's first 73 games, only six since May 11. He has made just 21 plate appearances in more than a month (May 21), and has just four hits in 39 at-bats (.103) since May 6. He had not played in nine games when summoned by Francona as a pinch hitter with the tying run on base Tuesday night.
Lowell, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip on Oct. 20, 2008, said he thought the twinge in his hip altered his swing during his session of soft toss.
"I feel discomfort," he said. "I'm hoping that maybe it was a wrong step or something, and [rest] will calm it down. I think I'm having a guilty conscience already, with my roster spot and how I'm used, so I feel like if I'm taking a different swing, now I'm really not contributing, so I think that's why I really made a point of telling Tito. I mean, I'm not really happy with the way I'm performing. To make it worse, I don't think there's any reason to do that.''
Lowell said he planned to consult with Dr. Brian Kelly, the surgeon who operated on his hip, to map out a plan on how best to proceed. He acknowledged that Kelly had told him at the time of his surgery that he was a "great candidate" for hip replacement, but said he hoped to avoid that procedure -- as well as a new technique called hip resurfacing -- until he was older.
He admitted that going on the DL was not going to help his already remote chances of being traded, but didn't want a team to make a deal for him and discover afterward that he was hurt.
"I'd rather not go to another team and they think they're getting something and I tell them my hip hurts the first week," he said. "I think that would make me look bad and they're getting something they didn't expect.
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"That was part of the reason I wanted to tell Tito. I don't know what talks are going on, but if they are, I don't want to look like the guy who is being dishonest. If it affects it, it affects it, but I had to go this route.''
Lowell is being paid $12 million this season, of which the Sox owe just more than $6 million. Other teams have not been in a position to evaluate Lowell, partly because of his ongoing hip problems, partly because he has played so little.
"I don't think that [the DL] helps my cause," Lowell said. "But I don't think there's a team out there that was going to say, 'We're getting this guy the way he was in 2004.' I think that's pretty realistic. I don't see it as a major obstacle as long as this is something that can be taken care of within the 15 days.
"I hate looking at the fact that I'm a member of this team and I'm looking at other teams, because if I don't get traded, and we reach the postseason, one at-bat can make a difference in a game. That could be satisfying in itself. At this point in the season, I don't think there's a scenario where I can reach the point where I can put up the numbers I expected to put up. With that being said, what am I going to say, 'Send me here so I can play two days a week and hit three more home runs?' That doesn't really fulfill me."
Lowell, who has been enormously frustrated at not playing with the Red Sox and not getting the chance to play elsewhere, said he understood the decision to place him on the DL and was "not terribly upset about the move. I understand it. I'm OK with it.''
Has it eased his "guilty conscience?"
"A little bit, honestly," he said. "Not that I'm happy with it. [But] I don't want to feel handicapped for myself, for the team."
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.