Lowell placed on 15-day disabled list
Move opens up roster spot for Matsuzaka to start Thursday
DENVER -- Mike Lowell felt a twinge in the back of his surgically repaired right hip before Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Rockies and tried to erase his pain later that night with a game-winning pinch-hit. Instead, Lowell was thrown out on a one-hop throw by Clint Barmes, even though the shortstop had to make a diving stop and literally tumbled over before releasing the throw.
That was perhaps a bit of a red flag to Lowell, who came to the agreement with the Red Sox before Thursday's game against the Rockies that the best thing was for him to go on the 15-day disabled list. The Red Sox needed to free up a roster spot for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who came off the DL to pitch the finale against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Lowell has been used sparingly by the Red Sox this season, as Adrian Beltre is entrenched as the third baseman, Kevin Youkilis starts at first and David Ortiz regains his groove as the designated hitter. Because of Lowell's limited mobility, he doesn't have the same versatility of most bench players, particularly with the way Boston's roster is constructed.
"I just went through my regular routine the first game of the series here," said Lowell. "I was doing flips inside with [batting-practice pitcher] Ino [Guerrero] -- nothing special. I do it all the time. I started feeling a little twinge in the back [of the hip]. I started noticing I was taking a little bit of a different swing, and running down first, Barmes pretty much embarrassed me.
"I knew there was something, so I texted [manger Terry Francona] after the game and told him, 'Hey, I'm kind of barking.' That's basically it. I talked to [general manager] Theo [Epstein] and a lot of people. That's what it is."
It is too early for Lowell to know if the injury is significant or just something that happened from one misstep. He will have a better idea within three or four days.
"I feel a little discomfort," said Lowell. "I'm hoping that it maybe was like a wrong step or something. I don't know. I think I had a little bit of a guilty conscience already about my roster spot and how I'm used, so I feel like if I'm taking a different swing, now I'm really not contributing. That's why I made it a point to tell Tito. I'm not really happy with the way I'm performing. To make it worse, I don't think that does anybody any good."
In 80 at-bats this season, Lowell is hitting .213 with two homers and 12 RBIs. He has just 13 at-bats in June, having produced one hit, which was a home run.
Lowell had surgery on his right hip following the 2008 season, and the injury has lingered since.
"He'll get treated all weekend," said Francona. "There's so much wear and tear. It's kind of bone on bone. We all know that. He knows it, too. I think his threshold of playing with pain is well documented. We know that that's not an issue."
There was a period in mid-April when Lowell's playing time increased, particularly against left-handed starters. But that ended in May, when Ortiz caught fire and started hitting like the Big Papi of old.
When the Red Sox were in New York on May 18, Lowell suggested that the club might be better off without him. Lowell said he was "literally chewing up a roster spot."
The Red Sox explored the trade market for Lowell both during Spring Training and in recent weeks, but his $12 million salary for this season has made it a tough sell.
Boston had agreed in principle to a trade with the Texas Rangers involving Lowell back in December. Lowell and $9 million of his salary would have gone to Texas for catching prospect Max Ramirez, but that deal fell apart when it was determined that Lowell needed right thumb surgery.
Since the deal with the Rangers fell through, Lowell has clearly had mixed feelings about whether he'd be best off in Boston or with another team. The veteran said on Thursday that he doesn't think his agent has gotten to the point where they've asked the Red Sox to release him.
"I'm sure my agent has explored a lot of those scenarios -- I don't think we're there," said Lowell. "I think agents explore a lot of scenarios just to see what's out there. That really hasn't been my request."
Even now, with a highly reduced role, the idea of being part of a postseason team is something that appeals to Lowell. The Red Sox entered Thursday's action just 2 1/2 games back in the American League East and tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the lead in the AL Wild Card standings.
"I hate looking at the fact that I'm a member of this team and then looking at other teams," said Lowell, "because if I don't get traded and we reach the postseason, one at-bat could be the difference in the game. That could be satisfying in itself. At this point of the season, I don't think there's any scenario where I can reach the point where I can put up the numbers that I expected to put up.
"That being said, what am I going to say, 'Send me here so I can play two days a week so I can hit three more home runs?' That doesn't really fulfill me, so I'd rather ... not go to another team and then have them think they're getting something and then say my hip hurts the first week. I think that would make me look bad, and they're getting something that they didn't expect.
"That was part of the reason why I wanted to tell Tito, because I don't really know what talks are going on, but if they are, I don't want to look like the guy that's being dishonest. If it affects it, it affects it. I'd still rather go this route. I think it's the right one."
Lowell knows that the hip is an issue that will probably be with him forever. His hip specialist -- Dr. Brian Kelly -- has told him he'd be a candidate for a hip replacement or a hip resurfacing, the latter of which is an evolving procedure.
"I think the technology for resurfacing is promising," said Lowell. "He told me people with resurfacing run a marathon. That has to be as encouraging as anything. I have no desire to run a marathon."
Would it be better to Lowell to undergo a resurfacing now, while he's relatively young?
"I asked [Kelly] that," said Lowell. "We were just throwing out every scenario. He said, 'Honestly, for you, I'd do resurfacing tomorrow, but your career would be over. There's no team that would stick out its neck to do that.'
"He told me the technology is that it lasts nine to 20 years. I feel like I have time on my side for life after baseball after that, if I need it. I'd rather it be something where the technology is something that lasts 40 years, so I'm not in a hurry to go under the knife again."
As for his immediate future, Lowell will have to wait and see as an already frustrating season now begins another chapter -- the disabled list.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.