ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This should hardly come as a surprise at this juncture, but Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell revealed just a short time ago that he will need surgery after the season to repair a partially torn labrum in his right hip.
Standing at the batting cage prior to tonight's series opener between the Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, Lowell disclosed the nature of his injury when asked about the condition of his hip, which has been plaguing him for some time. Lowell said weeks ago that he has been bothered by the hip for a while. He has said the injury most adversely affects his running, though he is batting just .224 with three home runs and 18 RBIs in 38 games since the start of play on July 6. His OPS during that time is a mere .621.
Last month, one baseball source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that part of the reason the Baltimore Orioles resisted trading for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell in 2005 was because team medical officials believed Lowell would encounter hip problems. Having lived through the problem of Albert Belle's degenerative hip condition, the Orioles subsequently backed out of talks with the Florida Marlins.
So how is Lowell's hip feeling?
"Terrible,'' cracked the third baseman.
Though labrum injuries most frequently are associated with shoulders, the term refers to cartilage within the joint (much like the ''meniscus'' in the knee). Cartilage injuries can be painful and reduce mobility, but many athletes opt to play through them and postpone surgery until after the season. Lowell said the surgery could be conducted arthroscopically, though it is unclear how much time he would miss if the injury took place during the regular season.
Generally speaking, cartilage injuries to the knee can take roughly six weeks to repair and rehabilitate. Labrum injuries to the shoulder require considerably more time (especially for pitchers) and logic suggests that a hip injury would require more time than a knee problem because the hips bear such a significant amount of human weight.
Last season, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz played essentially the entire second half of the season with torn cartilage in his knee. Ortiz nonetheless led the majors in slugging percentage after the All-Star break.
Though Lowell spent time on the disabled list recently, he was sidelined at the time with an injury to his oblique, a torso muscle near the ribcage. Such injuries can be damaging to hitters because they prevent swinging with the usual torque.
Lowell said prior to tonight's game that his oblique is feeling quite good, but the hip problem clearly affected his running ability over the weekend. Lowell continues to say that the problem generally does not affect him in the field or at the plate, though the problem is on his right side. As a righthanded hitter, his right leg provides much of his stability at the plate.
We hope to have more on this story later. Lowell is in the starting lineup tonight.