Lowell handles return to third
FORT MYERS, Fla. - The ball off the bat of Xavier Nady popped out of his grasp briefly, but Mike Lowell got the double play. Lowell got his first chance at third base since last postseason four batters into the game against the Yankees last night, with men on first and second and one out. Despite the hiccup, Lowell got the two outs, got the Sox out of the inning, and got his first opportunity at third out of the way.
In a game that had none of the feel of a typical Red Sox-Yankees clash - other than the never-ending first three innings - Lowell returned to the field. And flourished at the plate.
Two pitches into his first at-bat, Lowell blasted a pitch from Chien-Ming Wang to left field for a solo home run. He followed with a single over second base in the second inning.
Penny is smooth in his first spring start. C2
So though he might still be easing his way back into baseball shape after surgery on his hip last October, the third baseman is starting to show signs of his old self. Those are welcome signs for the Sox.
"I felt like I moved around pretty good," Lowell said. "The toughest ball was the first one, a hard kind of in-between hop, stayed with it good. I didn't really think about my hip much playing on the field, so that's what I want to do. I don't want to be thinking, 'If it's hit this way, I've got to do this.' I don't want to compensate or do anything different."
Lowell had gotten a single in three at-bats Tuesday, his first game since the surgery. Last night he took another step.
"He's a huge part of our team, and I was glad to see him back on the field," said starter Tim Wakefield, who gave up four runs in the 8-4 Sox win. "He hit a homer in his first at-bat, which was nice to see. His range was normal, I think, at third base, made a great play for me in the first, a double play. It's very exciting to see him back on the field with us."
Other than the double play in the first, Lowell fielded a routine grounder by Cody Ransom and wasn't able to corral a bending liner by Nady. He felt comfortable, and that's what really mattered.
He'll see how he feels today, how his body reacts to the strain, and he'll likely be in the field every other day for the near future. That has something to do with his rehab, and more perhaps to do with the team's travel schedule.
"We had a couple long innings," Lowell said. "I haven't really stood out there. What gets overlooked a lot is I don't think you can do anything in the offseason to prepare [for] being on your feet in spikes for three hours. You're not just going to stand around. That's what [Jason Varitek] always says: 'I'm not going to stand in the street in spikes and just stand there.' That's somewhat of an adjustment because sometimes your back gets tight."
But Lowell isn't overly concerned. And he doesn't seem overly concerned about his hip either.
His major concern is getting his timing down before Opening Day. Even that seems to be going better than expected.
"As opposed to other springs, I've done a lot of swinging before my first day," he said. "Usually, it's three or four days and then you're playing a game, so I still think just your mechanics and everything take time. But it was like three-plus weeks of doing a lot of drill work. So I think that has helped me speed up."
Speed up seeing the ball. Speed up with his discipline at the plate. The only thing that didn't speed up was last night's game. He might have gotten another at-bat, but when David Ortiz was retired to end the fourth, Lowell was in the on-deck circle.
"I don't like playing defense an extra half-inning and not getting the at-bat," Lowell said. "I really wanted David to get on base, but overall I'm very happy with the way things went."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.