If it's a chance, Lowrie will grab it
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - When he arrived at Fort Lauderdale Stadium yesterday, Jed Lowrie found a whole new world awaiting him. Suddenly, his intense competition with Julio Lugo for the Red Sox shortstop job was over, for the time being at least, and possibly for a while.
Pending the results of Friday night's MRI on Lugo's right knee - a torn meniscus is feared - Lowrie is the Sox' shortstop.
Lugo had entered camp in top shape, eager to get his job back from Lowrie after spending much of the 2008 season on the disabled list with a torn quadriceps. Because of Lugo's salary of $9 million per year for the next two seasons, the Sox had to initially give him the benefit of the doubt, with Lowrie even playing some third base in camp.
But Lugo, who had complained of soreness in the knee for a week, took himself out of Friday night's 8-4 win over the Yankees complaining of pain, and early word from manager Terry Francona was that it could be a tear.
"I hung around the first inning [Friday] and noticed he wasn't in the lineup," said Lowrie when asked if he knew anything about Lugo's injury. "He just said he was going to get an MRI on it. I really don't know a whole lot about it."
Now he's telling himself not to get too amped up over this possible opportunity.
"I'm just going to stay the same," said Lowrie, who doubled to drive in Boston's first run in the first inning of yesterday's 9-8 loss to the Orioles. "I never want to see anyone get hurt, whether I'm in competition with him or not."
And a competition it was, because both Francona and general manager Theo Epstein told him so. Whether they said it just to keep Lowrie on his toes, or whether they truly meant it, it made no difference to Lowrie.
"I've fielded a lot of questions about it," said Lowrie, "and it was told to me by Tito and Theo that there's a competition, but I just approach it the same way that I have. I just need to get myself ready for the season."
Lowrie started strong when he came up last season but was slowed by a wrist injury late in the year. He slumped to .213 in September, finishing with a .258 average with 2 homers and 46 RBIs. There was talk in the offseason of whether Lowrie was going to be the permanent starter. Then the Sox made an inquiry to the Marlins on the availability of their former farmhand, Hanley Ramirez, in an attempt to replace the bat of Manny Ramírez.
The Marlins said thanks but no thanks, and the Sox ended the search for a shortstop then and there.
Lugo elected to bypass winter ball and worked hard on strengthening his body, adding 10 pounds of muscle. Until he hurt his knee, he had been the most consistent Sox batter this spring.
In addition to taking reps at third base, Lowrie worked on his footwork at shortstop - although after making no errors at short last year, he made two in the same inning last week. Now it appears he may have some time to settle in at short.
"Yeah, to get consistent reps at one position is great," he said. "The more you play it, the more comfortable you get, but at the same time I played it last year and played third as well, so I have to prepare myself no matter where I'm asked to play.
"I would always take the opportunity to show them what I can do, whether Julio got hurt or not. It might be earlier than anticipated, but like I said, I don't want anyone to get hurt and I fully expect Julio to be all right."
Actually, Lowrie himself was almost injured recently.
"The other day we were doing hit-and-run drills and I was running first to second and [Lugo] hit a line drive and it nearly got me, and he said, 'I'm just trying to knock out the competition,' " said Lowrie.
"We're teammates, so I don't look at it like it's a personal battle."