THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Lowell trade is off

Rangers discover he needs surgery

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / December 20, 2009

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Don’t toss away your Mike Lowell jersey. For now, the third baseman is staying with the Red Sox.

Lowell was found to have a torn ligament in his right thumb during a physical conducted by the Rangers yesterday in Arlington, Texas, and will have surgery later this month.

Thus, the trade between the Red Sox and Rangers will be called off, according to a major league source.

The Sox and Rangers agreed on a deal at the winter meetings 11 days ago, deciding to swap Lowell for Triple A prospect Max Ramirez, a 25-year-old power-hitting catcher and first baseman. The Sox were to include $9 million in the deal.

The trade was held up over concerns about the thumb injury Lowell suffered near the end of the regular season. Those proved well-founded as doctors in Texas determined Lowell had torn the radial collateral ligament in his thumb and will require surgery.

Lowell is expected to miss 6-8 weeks while recovering, which would have him ready close to the start of spring training in February.

It will be the second surgery in 14 months for Lowell, who last October had a torn labrum repaired in his right hip.

The development does not come as a surprise, given the uncertainty both teams had about whether the 35-year-old Lowell could pass a physical.

Lowell hit .290 with 17 home runs and 75 RBIs last season but showed a marked decrease in range at third base. Until last night’s news, the Red Sox were planning on moving first baseman Kevin Youkilis to third and using Casey Kotchman, acquired last season at the trade deadline, at first.

It is uncertain how the Sox will proceed now that Lowell has made an unexpected return to the roster. Manager Terry Francona is on the record as being opposed to the idea of using Lowell at first base, pointing out that he has never played there.

The Red Sox had reconfigured their team to be more cognizant of pitching and defense, having signed the best free agent pitcher on the market, former Angels righthander John Lackey, to a five-year deal last week.

They also signed veteran outfielder Mike Cameron, a three-time Gold Glove recipient, to a two-year contract.

Having Lowell on the team does not necessarily alter their plans, as he could be used as a righthanded-hitting designated hitter or off the bench.

The Red Sox also could attempt to trade Lowell if he is able to regain his form at the plate following the surgery. That dynamic could lead to an awkward spring training for him.

Lowell’s return also could complicate the process of adding players to the bullpen and bench as general manager Theo Epstein loses $3 million in payroll savings.

Lowell, who has spent four seasons with the Sox and was named the most valuable player of the 2007 World Series, could not be reached for comment last night.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com.

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