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:
“I’m very much looking forward to playing on this team. The biggest difference of what I’m going into is an atmosphere of baseball, which is much different from what I’m used to.
“I think they put out a competitive team every year and I think I’m someone that can produce continue their winning ways and go deep in the playoffs like they did two years ago.
“So I’m very much looking forward to this and I think I’ve 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 I’m 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 didn’t 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 don’t 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 he’s going to find coming to Boston:
“I think even when we won the World Series in ‘03, we were kind of in a honeymoon for about a week, but it died out real quick. I don’t 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 it’s a market that can handle baseball, I’m not sold that it’s 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 they’re way out drawing us and even in September coming down to the wire, we’re leading the wild card with about three weeks left and we’re playing in front of 17,000 against the Braves on a weekend.
“That’s where it becomes very frustrating and I actually am looking forward to playing in front of a crowd that’s 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 there’s a different energy in the field. There’s no doubt about it. I don’t think it changes your preparation or what you do to get ready for the game but the atmosphere much better, it’s 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 ’98, it was in Fenway and Pedro was pitching against El Duque and I thought I was in a playoff football atmosphere, so I don’t really know what it is on a daily basis, I can’t compare it to anything because I haven’t 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 it’s something that may cater to my swing. I like the fact that it’s traditional. I’m kind of guy who appreciates baseball for the changes it’s gone through.
“I’ve 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. Everyone’s been telling me it’s a playoff atmosphere every single night. And I think as a competitor you’ve got to look forward to that. But no, I have no experience, I have no knowledge of how it’s going to be and I can’t tell you that I do.
“I’m a pull hitter and I think the dimensions of park favor myself, the way I am as opposed to where I’m coming from. I don’t think Pro Player was very much of a hitter’s 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 I’m sure it can. If you’re playing in a major market with passionate fans and if you’re not producing they way they think you should, they’re going to express their opinion and they’re totally entitled to that.
“I’m making sure that I’m preparing myself for a successful season. I’m not… I can’t 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 that’s what I expect out of myself and I hope I can do that.”
Kevin Millar suffered the wrath of the fans because he didn’t put up the same numbers as he had in the past, did he share that with you?
“Sure, he says if you’re not hitting it’s tough but he says you’re going to love it. I think I understand the good and the bad of the business but I’m a very optimistic person, I think very positively.
“I think if I prepare myself the way I should, and the way I plan to, I’m going to be able to produce so I’m 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 you’re hitting .300 with 30 (home runs) and 100 (RBI) they don’t care about the errors.
“But I think I really had to take upon myself to separate the offense from defense because if I’m… there are many times where I felt I didn’t 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.
“That’s the professional way to go about it. I don’t think you can take you can take your offense to your defense or vice-versa, you gotta separate the two and that’s 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 sky’s the limit. His talent is special. He’s the type of guy where he has three plus-pitches. He can locate. He’s 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 he’s really going to be able to thrive in that. I really do.
“I’m just hoping he can stay healthy, no more humidity in Miami breaking down those blisters, so I’m 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 wasn’t able just to duplicate that but I’ve actually gotten with the doctors that I was with at the Baskin-Palmer Eye Institute here in Miami and I’m 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 can’t replace) happening so I think that should not be a problem this year.
“I know at times I didn’t see the ball as well as I should have, but I can’t blame it on just that. I think it was a combination of things. I think when there’s a breakdown in your mechanics, and you start thinking that you’re not seeing the ball as well and… I don’t know, I think it’s in the… to think it’s everything and it might be just a little something, so I’m 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, he’s mature enough to handle it. I don’t know. That might be good question for him. Day in day out everyone reacts differently to what your job calls for so I’m not sure, I believe he can handle it, but I think it’s going to be a big change from what we’re used to here in Miami. People recognize you but I don’t think at any level compared to what it’s 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 he’s the type of person where he’s had to learn and adjust that this isn’t high school in the sense of I’ve 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 he’d 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 so… but I think he’s learned that.
“I think he’s 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 what’s expected of him, I don’t 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 wasn’t 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 he’s on he’s 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 stuff’s 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 ’05 because he had missed some time, he wanted to get his innings in. I think he was used excessively towards the end. He’s definitely capable. He’s 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 “assuming the contract” 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 you’re going to backload a contract, and you’re coming off your worst year, and you’re a low market team, you’re going to look to dump the salary.
“I believe I’m going to be someone who can produce (next year). I don’t know if it was so insulting but this year, whether there was a trade or not, I’m very motivated to prove that I’m not player that I was in ’05. So I don’t really care what label you put on it but I’m looking forward to having a good year.”