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Lowell hit by pitch, breaks left hand

MIAMI -- Florida Marlins All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell
will miss the rest of the regular season after breaking his left
hand Saturday night, an injury that could cripple the team's
chances of staying atop the NL wild-card race.

Florida's cleanup hitter and clubhouse leader broke a bone in
his hand when he was hit by a fastball from Montreal reliever
Hector Almonte in the eighth inning. Lowell dropped to the ground
in pain and was holding his wrist and hand as trainers escorted him
off the field. X-rays revealed the break.

"It's a tough blow, but this is a good ballclub,'' Marlins
manager Jack McKeon said. "I think these guys will pick up the
slack for Mike, battle the rest of the way and hope he's back for
the playoffs.''

Team doctors said Lowell will miss about four weeks -- meaning he
will be out for the rest of the regular season -- but he will see a
hand specialist Sunday to better determine the severity of the
injury and possible treatments.

"I know it's a freak thing, but I still feel like I'm letting
the guys down,'' Lowell said. "We've got to grind it out and see
what happens. ... We're going to move on. It's not like we're going
to cancel the next 20 or so games.''

Lowell leads the Marlins with 32 home runs and 105 RBI and was
batting .277. He has become one of the league's top defensive third
basemen and one of the main reasons Florida was tied with
Philadelphia for the wild-card spot.

"Anytime you take somebody out of the middle of the lineup,
it's a crushing blow,'' Montreal outfielder Brad Wilkerson said. "But things happen. It's a pretty big loss for them.''

Without Lowell, McKeon said he likely would move left fielder
Miguel Cabrera to third and use a platoon of players in the vacant
outfield position. The manager said roster moves also might help
fill the void.

"We can't feel sorry for ourselves,'' McKeon said. "Somebody's
got to pick up the slack. We've got plenty of options there. That's
no problem.''