Newly acquired Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell spoke to the media earlier tonight via a conference call (Josh Beckett will address the media via a conference call on Sat. at 1 p.m.). His comments follow:
Regarding his expectations on coming to the Red Sox, playing at Fenway Park, and hitting in the Sox lineup:
ďIím very much looking forward to playing on this team. The biggest difference of what Iím going into is an atmosphere of baseball, which is much different from what Iím used to.
"I think they put out a competitive team every year and I think Iím someone that can produce continue their winning ways and go deep in the playoffs like they did two years ago.
"So Iím very much looking forward to this and I think Iíve never been more excited for a season to start than this one. Just with the change everything is pointed in the right direction."
On reasons why his offensive production declined in 2005:
For me personally, I think what happened was Iím usually the type of person where I use spring training to get my swing down and right down and right around the last 7-10 days everything starts clicking and for whatever reason I didnít find that this year and it turned into the beginning of the season and I never found that rhythm.
"I think I dug such a deep hole in those first three weeks and I started to just tinker with my swing, trying to do too many new things. I think looking back on it now if I maybe took a more intelligent approach maybe I just would stayed with what had been working but I think as a competitor you donít want to just keep waiting to see if things are going to get better, you want them to get better right away and I think I was just trying to make too many adjustments and doing too many different things and I think doing that it kind of snowballed and my mechanics were thrown off.
"I do intend this year to start much earlier and come into spring training in a much more ready sense from the velocity standpoint, not so much the mechanics, I hope the mechanics are there definitely but not using the game so much to get into shape, more like coming in much better shape and using the games to fine tune myself to get ready for the season."
On the aftermath of a winning a world championship with Florida, then going to the ballpark in Miami, and what his anticipation level is in terms of the dramatic contrast heís going to find coming to Boston:
"I think even when we won the World Series in Ď03, we were kind of in a honeymoon for about a week, but it died out real quick. I donít think South Florida can compete with the tradition that you have from the organizations that traditionally draw well, Boston, New York, Chicago, like that.
"Although I believe itís a market that can handle baseball, Iím not sold that itís a baseball market yet. And it was very disappointing for the players, I think we noticed it most when we would go to places like Colorado and Cincinnati, these teams are out of it in May and theyíre way out drawing us and even in September coming down to the wire, weíre leading the wild card with about three weeks left and weíre playing in front of 17,000 against the Braves on a weekend.
"Thatís where it becomes very frustrating and I actually am looking forward to playing in front of a crowd thatís energetic. I think the taste we had in the playoffs is we had a true home field advantage because there are so many people pulling for you that thereís a different energy in the field. Thereís no doubt about it. I donít think it changes your preparation or what you do to get ready for the game but the atmosphere much better, itís much more conducive to playing game in my opinion."
On his familiarity and experience with Fenway Park, the Red Sox players, and the passion in Boston:
"My experience is the first day I got called up with Yankees in í98, it was in Fenway and Pedro was pitching against El Duque and I thought I was in a playoff football atmosphere, so I donít really know what it is on a daily basis, I canít compare it to anything because I havenít experienced it.
"Guys on the team, what I know about Fenway Park were the few times we played against the Red Sox in interleague play. I like the stadium. I think itís something that may cater to my swing. I like the fact that itís traditional. Iím kind of guy who appreciates baseball for the changes itís gone through.
"Iíve spoken to Kevin Millar and Todd Jones for a small stint and Jose Cruz Jr. who was there probably for 48 hours, but they told me that it is electric and electric every single day. Everyoneís been telling me itís a playoff atmosphere every single night. And I think as a competitor youíve got to look forward to that. But no, I have no experience, I have no knowledge of how itís going to be and I canít tell you that I do.
"Iím a pull hitter and I think the dimensions of park favor myself, the way I am as opposed to where Iím coming from. I donít think Pro Player was very much of a hitterís park. Hopefully a couple of those balls that normally go to the track can be either doubles off the Wall or steal a few home runs."
Is there any concern that if he gets off to a slow start, the passion in Boston can be unpleasant?
"Well Iím sure it can. If youíre playing in a major market with passionate fans and if youíre not producing they way they think you should, theyíre going to express their opinion and theyíre totally entitled to that.
"Iím making sure that Iím preparing myself for a successful season. Iím notÖ I canít believe the six years prior to last year are a fluke and the last year was what I really am. I believe more that the type of player I am are the three years that preceded last year, so thatís what I expect out of myself and I hope I can do that."
Kevin Millar suffered the wrath of the fans because he didnít put up the same numbers as he had in the past, did he share that with you?
"Sure, he says if youíre not hitting itís tough but he says youíre going to love it. I think I understand the good and the bad of the business but Iím a very optimistic person, I think very positively.
"I think if I prepare myself the way I should, and the way I plan to, Iím going to be able to produce so Iím not really dwelling on that part."
How much pride did he take in winning a Gold Glove in a year where he struggled so much offensively?
"Very much so, to be quite frank. I think it was very hard to separate the two because in this game you can make 30 errors if youíre hitting .300 with 30 (home runs) and 100 (RBI) they donít care about the errors.
"But I think I really had to take upon myself to separate the offense from defense because if IímÖ there are many times where I felt I didnít drive in runs when I could have or should have so I felt like defensively I had to do my best to try to stop any runs from coming in. So the fact that I was able to have my best defensive year, I was very satisfied with the fact that I could separate the two and I would say that it the small little silver lining to the whole season to last year.
"Thatís the professional way to go about it. I donít think you can take you can take your offense to your defense or vice-versa, you gotta separate the two and thatís just the way you have to go about it."
How excited is he to come to Boston with Josh Beckett and is Beckett ready to break out with a big 20-21 win season?
"I think if he can log in the innings, and he remains healthy, the skyís the limit. His talent is special. Heís the type of guy where he has three plus-pitches. He can locate. Heís not intimidated. He has supreme confidence in his own abilities. And I really think a market like this, where everything is scrutinized, and broken down, and expected, I think heís really going to be able to thrive in that. I really do.
"Iím just hoping he can stay healthy, no more humidity in Miami breaking down those blisters, so Iím crossing my fingers and hoping he can do all right."
Regarding using certain contact lenses and the effect they have on his hitting:
"During the season I did try a contact lens that I did feel like helped me a lot but it took me a while because I was kind of doing trial by fire because I was trying a couple of different things and they were in game situations, so I think that was hard.
"But I did feel comfortable for about a 2-3 week stretch and I wasnít able just to duplicate that but Iíve actually gotten with the doctors that I was with at the Baskin-Palmer Eye Institute here in Miami and Iím working on getting enough sets to be able to use day in day out and not to be worried about anything like that (breaking a lens he canít replace) happening so I think that should not be a problem this year.
"I know at times I didnít see the ball as well as I should have, but I canít blame it on just that. I think it was a combination of things. I think when thereís a breakdown in your mechanics, and you start thinking that youíre not seeing the ball as well andÖ I donít know, I think itís in theÖ to think itís everything and it might be just a little something, so Iím trying to eliminate all the factors going into the year and just concentrating on just baseball and just normally going out and getting myself ready."
Regarding the lack of privacy that players get in Boston, is Beckett a private person and how will he handle the newfound celebrity in Boston?
"Knowing Josh, heís mature enough to handle it. I donít know. That might be good question for him. Day in day out everyone reacts differently to what your job calls for so Iím not sure, I believe he can handle it, but I think itís going to be a big change from what weíre used to here in Miami. People recognize you but I donít think at any level compared to what itís going to be like in Boston."
Is Beckett the type of player to embrace the expectations and pressure that are put on someone of his caliber?
"I think heís the type of person where heís had to learn and adjust that this isnít high school in the sense of Iíve seen him in his first couple of years in the big leagues where have a three up, three down inning and guys would hit the ball hard off him and heíd be throwing his glove in the dugout. And we joke around, I tell him if I get broken bat single and throw my helmet when I get to first soÖ but I think heís learned that.
"I think heís learned, especially from talking to Al Leiter last year in spring training, that he needs to pitch more instead of just trying to strike everyone out. The strikeouts will come because his stuff is so good. So I think from a competitive standpoint, and being able to handle whatís expected of him, I donít think he should have a problem. His makeup is prime to be No. 1 guy in big market. I think he can definitely handle it in that situation.
"I just want him to be able to have one year where he makes his 35 starts because I think the numbers will follow."
On Guillermo Mota (the reliever who was also part of the trade):
"He was someone you did not want to face at all when he was with Dodgers. I think his confidence was hurt a little bit in April of this year because he was slated to be our closer, and got off to a little bit of a slow start, and then he actually got hurt and was on the shelf for about three weeks and then Todd Jones was just so lights out that I think he was a little disheartened that he wasnít going to get his closer job back.
"But his stuff is there. This is a guy who throws 95 with a real good change up and a decent slider. When heís on heís tough, I think he was a premier set-up man for (Eric) Gagne (in LA) for two years straight. I think his ERA was actually under 2.00 for a full season. The stuffís there. Now I hope he can come through with it. I know he struggled with a little bit of over use at the end of í05 because he had missed some time, he wanted to get his innings in. I think he was used excessively towards the end. Heís definitely capable. Heís got great stuff and he could be a big boost to any bullpen."
On his being the part of the trade that was basically about ďassuming the contractĒ so the Sox could get Beckett:
"I heard it. No doubt about it. I understand it because I think I understand the business a little bit better than some guys. If youíre going to backload a contract, and youíre coming off your worst year, and youíre a low market team, youíre going to look to dump the salary.
"I believe Iím going to be someone who can produce (next year). I donít know if it was so insulting but this year, whether there was a trade or not, Iím very motivated to prove that Iím not player that I was in í05. So I donít really care what label you put on it but Iím looking forward to having a good year."