Lowell gaining comfort at first
It might be a long time before Mike Lowell thinks of himself as a first baseman, but the veteran is starting to feel more comfortable on that side of the diamond, where he started Wednesday’s game against the Pirates.
The only qualm Lowell had is that only one grounder was hit to him.
“Well yeah, I would actually love to get more groundballs but with Josh on the mound, I don’t think too many lefties are going to straight pull,” Lowell said. “Yeah, I’m feeling more comfortable. Picking a ball in the dirt, holding runners on, just doing more of the responsibilities, so I would say so.”
He is also learning that the position is much more social than third base.
“Absolutely,” said Lowell. “I was asked how the kids and family are doing. Is this guy making the team? When the first base coach is up with a runner on first, you almost can’t help but talk. When I got to first, I would say hi to the first baseman and all of that but you’re almost gone in three or four pitches.
“I feel like I know [Pirates first base coach Carlos] Garcia. He’s almost like family after just five innings,” quipped Lowell. No wonder everybody loves Sean Casey so much. He knows your whole family history. A lot more talk, a lot more talk. More bantering. I will say this — you’re involved in a lot more plays, which is better. I would say it’s a more comfortable position to play because you just don’t have to make that throw. That throw from third is what sets it apart.”
There are little subtleties Lowell is still learning at first.
“Trailing the runners, stuff like that, I’m just not used to doing,” Lowell said. “Like when runners go on second, I have to remind myself that I’m the cut-off to center field. When you’re doing a new position you go through that checklist a lot more until it becomes habit, but like I’m saying, it’s not a position that I’m totally foreign too in the sense of I kind of know when I’m playing third the first baseman is the cutoff man for the guy in center so you have to put yourself in that spot.”
And the offense? It is a work in progress for Lowell, who went 1-for-3 on Wednesday and is 1-for-10 overall.
“Eh, so so,” said Lowell. “Pitch recognition is coming slowly. I think in my last two at-bats, I at least swung at pitches I wanted to. “
Because he was coming off right thumb surgery and because he doesn’t have a set role on the team, at-bats have come slower than in a normal camp.
“Yeah it’s different. It is what it is,” Lowell said.
As for the right hip, which is now nearly a year and a half removed from surgery, Lowell says it feels a lot better than it did at this time last year. Then again, he also said his mobility hasn’t returned quite to the point he had hoped.
“With X-Rays and what I’ve done, I think what I was not aware of was best case
scenario was status quo post-surgery,” said Lowell. “Meaning whatever cartilage damage I had, which was technically was pretty signficant on the hip side, it wasn’t going to get better. I don’t know if it was my optimism. But I do believe it was what I was told — that it was going to get better,” Lowell said.
“In that sense, would I compare it to like I was running like in ’07? I would say no,” said Lowell. “So in that sense it was a little disappointing. I still stand that I am better than last year. There’s a certain condition in the hip that I don’t think will ever allow me to get the point where I was in ’07 or prior. In that sense, of course that’s disappointing but I think once I got more educated in what happened with the surgery, and I have more range of motion now that can cause more friction, it makes more sense.”
Now Lowell looks for his bat to give him a chance to test his speed — not that it was ever much a part of his game.
“Like I said, I’d love to hit a double or something so I can run around,” Lowell said. “It’s not that fun hitting popups. I did the whole college thing and round first. If healthy, I wouldn’t get there anyway. Yeah, it’s actually feeling good. There’s strength and there’s baseball strength and you have to get used to both of them and I think I’m getting there right now.”