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Lowell showcases his value

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / June 12, 2010

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There are days you think he’s simply holding a roster spot and is underutilized. And there are days when you wonder what if Kevin Youkilis gets hurt? Or Adrian Beltre has another collision? Then what?

Then it’s good to have Mike Lowell around, isn’t it?

In last night’s 12-2 Red Sox romp over the Phillies, Lowell played a significant role in the drubbing of Jamie Moyer. The Sox had lost two straight games in Cleveland. And they really raked Moyer’s offerings to the tune of a five-run first inning — capped by Lowell’s two-run homer — and four-run second.

Just what the Sox needed. Just what Lowell needed.

This new role of sitting for an eternity is new to him. He said a while back he had no idea how he was going to respond, and he hadn’t responded very well. Lowell is someone who needs to play to get into a rhythm at the plate. Ken Rosenthal from Fox Sports reported yesterday the Twins and Rangers have talked to Boston about Lowell, so we’ll see how far that goes.

The Sox have basically relegated Lowell to the bench — which isn’t the greatest way to showcase him for a trade, if that’s their intention — but Youkilis’s back spasms allowed Lowell to play first base last night. Good viewing for the scouts in attendance.

Is it a good idea to deal him now? Why would you deal him to the Twins, a team you might have to beat out for a playoff spot? Ditto the Rangers. And for what? With Jacoby Ellsbury out with another rib fracture and Jeremy Hermida on the disabled list with a rib injury, it would seem the Sox need an outfielder.

Terry Francona said before last night’s game that he was perfectly fine with the five outfielders he has. Francona has always been a fan of Josh Reddick, but after the game the Sox sent Reddick to Pawtucket and announced they would make a corresponding roster move today. Barring a trade, it’s likely switch-hitter Daniel Nava, 27, who has been Pawtucket’s best outfielder with a .294 average, 8 homers, and 38 RBIs.

There’s no doubt the Sox are scouting outfielders and could be targeting one if and when they move Lowell. One prize catch would the Royals’ David DeJesus, who was drafted during Allard Baird’s reign as Kansas City’s general manager. Baird is Theo Epstein’s top adviser when it comes to pro personnel and Baird has always liked DeJesus, who can play all three outfield positions but has played mostly right this season and is hitting .303.

It’s curious that Lowell had played only two games in 2 1/2 weeks. If there’s one manager in baseball who finds a way to use all of his players, it’s Francona, so Lowell’s long idle stretch raised some red flags.

It’s probably a good thing the Sox haven’t moved Lowell yet because of the Youkilis injury. Last night was one of those rare times this season Lowell felt like he was a part of the team. Lowell has opted not to speak after many games, but opened up last night.

“We were clicking on a lot of cylinders tonight,’’ he said. “We were stringing a lot of hits together, especially for the first three runs. [John] Lackey did a good job. It’s not the easiest thing to stay within your game plan with such a big lead but he was very efficient.’’

This was Lowell’s third start at first base, but he said Ross Gload’s grounder in the fourth inning was the first time he had to field a ball and feed the pitcher covering the bag.

“I’m feeling more comfortable there. It’s very exciting,’’ Lowell said. “It’s the first time I’ve had to make a throw to the pitcher.’’

It was a play scouts were looking for. They want to make sure he can do it, and he proved he could. Later in the game, Lowell wasn’t able to scoop a throw out of the dirt, so it’s clear he has some work to do.

One thing Lowell still can’t do well is run the bases. Anyone dealing for him has to accept the fact that Lowell isn’t going to score very often from second base on a single and he’s generally going to go station to station. But two-run homers are the answer to that, and last night’s was his second homer of the season. Lowell entered the game hitting .200 against lefties (6 for 30), then blasted Moyer’s offering over the wall.

“Jamie Moyer doesn’t wow you with the radar gun,’’ said Lowell. “But he has three pitches he throws at the same velocity that do three different things. He usually has very good location. I haven’t seen the video on everything but he probably missed his spots a couple of times.’’

Nobody knows how much longer Lowell will be here. But he’s been a clutch player for this organization and his bat speed suggests he still could be if given the chance. The Sox shouldn’t just give him away. He’s worth something.

And maybe he’s worth more to them than they think.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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