Results tagged ‘ Mike Lowell ’

Lowell limps off

Mike Lowell was finally starting to get back on a normal playing schedule, but that came to a halt on Friday afternoon, when the veteran had to leave the Grapefruit League contest against the Blue Jays after fouling a ball off his left leg. The official diagnosis is a left knee contusion. It happened in the bottom of the first inning during Lowell’s first at-bat.

Upon contact, Lowell immediately fell to the ground and appeared to be in considerable pain. He eventually got up and limped off the field with the help of trainer Mike Reinold and manager Terry Francona.

Lowell was still recovering from right thumb surgery at the start of camp, and played in his first exhibition game on March 15, 12 days behind the rest of the team.

He has been playing at both third base and first base this spring, the latter position a new one for him. Lowell hasn’t had the same mobility since undergoing right hip surgery in October, 2008, so the versatility of playing first base figures to make him more valuable to the Red Sox or another team if he is traded.

The Red Sox nearly traded Lowell to the Texas Rangers for catching prospect Max Ramirez in December, but the deal fell through when it was determined that he needed thumb surgery.

The World Series Most Valuable Player in 2007, when the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies, Lowell was Boston’s starting third baseman the last four seasons.

Even after the deal with the Rangers didn’t happen, the Red Sox went out and signed free agent Adrian Beltre to be their starting third baseman.

If Lowell winds up staying with the Red Sox, he will be used at both corner spots as well as designated hitter.

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.”

Washed away at Roger Dean

JUPITER, Fla. — This is Alden Gonzalez here, filling in for Ian Browne, and it looks like I brought some of that Miami-ish rain from home with me on Friday. Sorry about that.
DSC01617.jpgAnyway, it’s been raining all morning at Roger Dean Stadium — and the night before — so the game was postponed before 11 a.m. ET. Here’s how it affects the Red Sox:
* They’ll play their regularly scheduled game against the Pirates at home on Saturday, at 1:05 p.m. ET (weather permitting). They’ll then play a 5 1/2-inning ‘B’ game against some of the guys from Minor League camp. Clay Buchholz (Friday’s scheduled starter) will start the game against the Pirates, followed by Michael Bowden. 
* Pitching in the ‘B’ game will be Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, Casey Kelly, Ramon Ramirez and others.

* Boston will now come back here to make this contest up on March 22 as part of a split-squad game. The other half of the squad will be back home playing the Rays. That will mark back-to-back split-squad doubleheaders on the schedule.
* Since the Marlins weren’t here on Friday (they were busy getting rained out in Sarasota, Fla.), Red Sox hitters were able to utilize the batting cages, and a few guys threw off the mound before they headed back to Fort Myers, Fla. 
* Mike Lowell (thumb) is still on track to play in his first exhibition game on Monday, against the Orioles. Daisuke Matsuzaka (upper back) is still scheduled to throw to hitters on Saturday. That will be at 11:30 a.m. in the backfields at City of Palms Park.
* Francona said his “best guess” would be that Jason Varitek, who missed a few days while attending to his ailing father, would play again against the Twins on Sunday, even though he’s itching to play tomorrow.
“I know he’s chomping at the bit, I just don’t think it makes any sense to rush and send him backwards,” Francona added.
* It’s too bad for Jupiter residents that the weather didn’t hold up. Even though Kevin Youkilis was the only everyday player in the lineup for the Red Sox, this contest was sold out.
“If I was the Cardinals, and I had a sellout, I would want to play the game, too,” said Francona, whose squad traveled 2 1/2 hours from Fort Myers. “I don’t blame them. If they want to pay for our dinner last night, we’ll accept it.” 

– Alden Gonzalez

Lowell targets Monday

When might you see Mike Lowell in an exhibition game? The target is Monday. The Red Sox are home  that day. Manager Terry Francona isn’t sure just yet if Lowell will be at first, third or in the DH slot.

Daisuke Matsuzaka will face hitters for the first time on Saturday, throwing BP on the backfield. It still appears as if Dice will pitch in a game of some sort — Minors maybe? — by the middle of the week.

Jason Varitek and Adrian Beltre were supposed to make the trip to Jupiter on Friday to face the Cardinals, but Francona called back to Fort Myers and told them not to bother. Varitek is still getting his legs back under him after tending to his ill father for several days. Kevin Youkilis is the only member of the starting nine expected to be on the trip.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who has been Mr. Bus Ride early in camp, was given these two days off on the East Coast. Francona said it would allow the outfielder extra time to take extra hitting, something the manager likes all hitters to have a chance to do at some point over the exhibition schedule.

The reunion with Jason Bay was about what you’d expect. Lots of hugs and handshakes during batting practice. It was a little surprising that Bay got some boos in his first at-bat. Obvioulsy there was a lot that went into him signing with the Mets instead of the Red Sox, but Bay was classy every step of the way.

Francona, who is a big fan of Bay, said he was amused to see the left fielder heckled just a bit. In a shocker, Bay handled it with perspective, sending third base coach DeMarlo Hale a text message during the game, saying, “That wasn’t as bad as I expected.”

There’s a chance the Sox will be rained out on Friday. The forecast for Jupiter is, well, ominous, to say the least. But we all know how quickly weather can change.

Monday at home

(For the sake of full disclosure, this is Jonathan Mayo, filling in for Ian Browne for the day at City of Palms Park).

Just a couple of quick notes prior to the game today against the Cardinals:

 – Nothing really new to report on Mike Lowell (thumb). He had the day off on Sunday and took live BP today. There’s no official timetable, but there was the hope he could see some game action by the end of the week. “I think he’d like to shoot for the end of the week to get into games,” Terry Francona said. “I’m not discouraging that. I just want to see him be OK. I don’t want to run him out there before he’s ready. Everybody gets anxious and I understand that. But we want to keep our eyes on him for this week and see how he’s doing.”

 – Daisuke Matsuzaka (back) seems to be feeling pretty good following his side session on Sunday. In an ideal world, he’d like to throw his next bullpen tomorrow. The logistics of the schedule may not allow that. The Redsox have a three-game swing on the East Coast beginning tomorrow. Pitching coach John Farrell is slated to go on the first day of the trip, so the Sox will likely try to delay Matsuzaka’s session until Wednesday so Farrell can be in attendance. “I think he’s chomping at the bit, which we’re glad [about],” Francona said. “But if we move it back one day, the rest will never hurt and John can be there for it, which is important.”

 — OF Zach Daeges‘ big-league camp experience is over before it really got the chance to get started. An non-roster invitee, Daeges hasn’t been able to play as he’s dealt with a lat injury. With it clear that he wouldn’t be ready to play in the next few days, the Red Sox informed Daeges that they were sending him over to the Minor League side so he could get more individualized attention for his injury. “It’s a shame. We kind of wanted to see him play and it’s obvious we’re not,” Francona said.

Sunday in Sarasota

As we wait for Clay Buchholz to make his Grapefruit League debut and Casey Kelly to pitch against Major League hitters for the first time in his hometown to boot, here are some quick hits from this morning:

There could be a schedule of progression for third baseman Mike Lowell by tomorrow. Lowell was expected to huddle with trainer Mike Reinold today in Fort Myers to map things out as far as when he might be game ready.

Daisuke Matsuzaka had his first true bullpen session of camp this morning, meaning that the catcher was in a full crouch the entire time. Pitching coach John Farrell told manager Terry Francona that March 18 could be a rough estimate of when Dice-K is ready to pitch in games. The Red Sox don’t play on March 18 — the team’s only off-day of Spring Training — so perhaps that won’t be the date. Or there’s always a B game. 

Farrell said that Dice will throw another bullpen in two to three days, and then batting practice by Friday or Saturday. If all goes well, he could pitch a Minor League game after that instead of a second BP session.

Wondering why Jason Varitek hasn’t been in a game since Wednesday night? The catcher has been tending to a personal matter, and the Red Sox have given him their blessing to prioritize that and return when he is ready.

“We just told him to handle what he needs to and we’ll make adjustments. He knows he has our blessing to do what he needs to do,” Francona said.

There hasn’t been much buzz about prospect Michael Bowden lately, perhaps because he got rocked in limited opportunities with the big league team last year. But there has been progress in his development.

“I’ve got to go back a little ways. A couple years ago, he went to that API in Florida, and he got strong. He got big. Now, he’s slimmed down a little bit, but he didn’t sacrifice strength,” Francona said. “We don’t really want him to do that. But he’s had so many adjustments in his delivery – as you can tell, you see him every few months, there’s a little bit different
delivery. We want him to be a little bit more relaxed and fluid in his delivery. I see him every day in that weight room, in the mirror, which is good. We’re just trying to have, I think that’s the right word, a little bit less tight.”

Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury, who gets a start in center today with Mike Cameron not on the trip, is vying for the early team leader in bus rides, at least among the established players.

“Jacoby needs to pull for another wave of young guys – because he’s making some tough trips. He’s the youngest guy, he’s going to get [the brunt of it],” laughed Francona. “I hate to tell him that.”

Friday from the Fort

Manager Terry Francona was in the middle of his post-game session with the media, when Ron Gardenhire spotted him.

“Tito!” the Twins’ manager yelled.

“Gardy!” Francona shouted back.

“One and one, baby!” Gardenhire said, as Francona howled with laughter.

Yes, the riveting Mayor’s Cup — a best-of-seven series this spring — is now tied at 1-1. This on a day the Twins beat the Red Sox, 5-0.

The day started at City of Palms Park, where the Red Sox went through a normal pre-game routine at their own park before taking the seven-mile jaunt to the Twins’ complex.

“It’s like a Spring Training day in Arizona,” quipped Francona, who was definitely talking about the proximity and not the weather, which is still chillier than Floridians are accustomed to at this time of year.

Daisuke Matsuzaka reeled off 58 pitches in the bullpen, the last 10 of which came with the catcher in a full crouch. Yes, the Red Sox are easing the righty back into a full throwing program after the back woes that plagued him at the start of camp. But all systems are now go for Matsuzaka, who will throw a full side session on Sunday and then progress to game action at some point in the near future. There is no official word yet, but judging by the timing alone, it’s doubtful Dice-K will be ready for the very start of the season. But this isn’t big news when you consider the Red Sox have three off-days before they play their eighth game. Do some quick math and you realize Francona doesn’t even need a fifth starter until April 18. Expect the club not to rush Dice-K and keep the long term as the priority.

Third baseman Mike Lowell is also feeling quite well in his recovery from right thumb surgery, and he told Francona he could play in a game next Wednesday. But it doesn’t sound like that will happen. I’m sure Lowell is antsy to get back out there, so his situation can start getting resolved. Obviously he wants to prove his health and possibly land an every-day job somewhere else.

“He was pushing today to play Wednesday so obviously he’s feeling pretty good,” Francona said. “I still think that’s pretty quick.”

The Red Sox have long road trips on Thursday an Friday of next week, so the home game on March 13 against the Pirates could be a more realistic date for Lowell to make his spring debut.

The game itself — other than the drop in the Mayor’s Cup standings — was pretty uneventful. Jon Lester had a rocky first inning — three hits, four runs —  but nobody was concerned about it. Tim Wakefield dazzled in his first two innings since back surgery, giving up one hit and no other baserunners. The knuckleballer threw 22 pitches, 16 for strikes.

Saturday, the stage will belong to John Lackey. The $82.5 million man will throw his first game pitches in a Red Sox uniform, which will be a soft launch of sorts for his real debut next month, likely against the Yankees at Fenway.

Dice-K has a mound date

Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw his first full-fledged side session of camp on Friday morning. Dice-K, who had a minor back issue earlier in camp that forced his delayed program, played long toss again on Wednesday morning, and finished by throwing some pitches off the mound, with the catcher standing up.

 “Dice-K had a real good day and he’ll have a side on Friday,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “[Wednesday] was the same as last time. Catcher didn’t get down yet but it’s a way of progressing. Once you get out there to 180, 190 feet and you’re fully loose, then you get on the mound and create that angle, but not as much as when you have the catcher down. He’ll go right to the bullpen Friday.”

The Red Sox are confident Matsuzaka is completely over the injury.

“I think he’s done it the right way,” Francona said. “There’s no way you can get out and throw as far as he has [and not be healthy], that’s hard to do. It’s impressive, actually. He’s ready to go. He’s ready to go. The timing, I think we did it right.”

In other nuts and bolts-type news:

Casey Kelly’s first game action in a Red Sox uniform was productive and brief. He threw 10 pitches, seven of them strikes, in setting Northeastern down 1-2-3.

“I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since I got off the mound,” said Kelly. “It was a good first outing. To have the crowd, and some of the people behind me playing defense behind me was a tremendous honor.”

Center fielder Mike Cameron, bothered by minor tightness in his left groin this week, will likely take his first “game swings” in a Sox uniform in Friday’s game against the Twins. J.D. Drew is expected to make his spring debut that day also, serving as the DH.

Francona said that nothing is wrong with Drew physically.

“I think I’m probably slowing him down,” Francona said. “He stayed indoors a day and a half.
I just don’t think it makes sense to rush him. I think I’ve been around him long enough that I think I know what works for him, and that’s why we have spring training. I don’t think it’s a huge big deal that we run our everyday lineup out there today or tomorrow.”

Though there aren’t many positional battles in camp, one to watch is for the final slot(s) in the bullpen. Right-hander Joe Nelson and lefty Brian Shouse are two veteran contenders who are in the running. It is a fine line because the Red Sox have never been big on evaluating specific results from Spring Training games.

“It’s not easy,” Francona said. “It’s really not. That’s why, as we get into this, we watch how they’re throwing the ball. You can make some mistakes. Shouse is a good example. If he goes through a day where a couple of righties take him over the palm trees, that doesn’t mean he can’t help your team. We try to make good decisions on what can help your ballclub.”

Mike Lowell continues to get closer to game action, though no official date has been set.

“Mikey was already in the cage. He’s going to take BP again today,” Francona said. “He actually, [hitting coach Dave Magadan] made a comment that he looked pretty good – the ball was coming off his bat pretty good. I think Mikey was happy about it.”

A clean bill of health

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The weather was crisp, the sun was beaming and the crowds were healthy. It was a good day at Red Sox camp on Monday — and the injury report reflected that.

Here are some camp tidbits on the ailing Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mike Lowell and Mike Cameron, plus some other stuff …
* Red Sox manager Terry Francona was pretty giddy about Matsuzaka’s progress on returning from tightness in his upper back, saying the Japanese right-hander “had a great day.” Matsuzaka, who threw from 150 feet on Sunday, increased the distance to 180-200 feet — Francona said he got “real aggressive” — and finished up throwing a bit off the mound, with the catcher standing up. 
Matsuzaka said through his interpreter that he threw about 25-30 pitches off the mound and would ideally like to throw his bullpen on Thursday. 
“That was about as good a day, I think, as you could have,” Francona said. “I don’t think you can throw the ball like that and not be totally healthy. So, probably start thinking about towards the end of the week, getting him some real mound work where he’s throwing some sides and throwing to hitters and going through that progression. But that was a real, real good day.”
* Lowell (right thumb) hit some actual pitches in the batting cage, taking in three rounds of about 15 pitches each. Lowell said, “It went OK,” and Francona said he’ll take batting practice on the field on Tuesday. “Sounds like it went real well,” Francona added. There’s still no timetable as to when Lowell — pictured below by Brita Meng Outzen with Adrian Beltre — will actually play in a Spring Training game.

* Cameron  didn’t do any of the outfield drills, but he took batting practice, as pictured below. “He has improved,” Francona said.
cameronhacks.JPG
* Utility man Bill Hall took some grounders at shortstop today. If Lowell isn’t traded before Opening Day, they’ll need him to be able to play the position because Jed Lowrie likely wouldn’t find a place on the 25-man roster. If Lowell stays with the team, the bench would likely be composed of Jason Varitek, Hall, Jeremy Hermida (more on him later) and Lowell. 
Hall is obviously the only one with shortstop experience in that group, having played 261 career games there but none since 2006. So, can he work out at shortstop again?
“I hope so,” Francona said. “That’s something we’ll find out this spring.”
* Jonathan Papelbon’s first game action will come Thursday, in the Grapefruit League opener against the nearby Twins. 
– Alden Gonzalez

Lowell works out at first

For the second time in three days, Mike Lowell, a career third baseman, spent time at first base during Boston’s workouts.

Lowell is trying to gain comfort at first this spring, which could help his market value and also make him more viable to the Red Sox if he stays with the club.

Manager Terry Francona said that Lowell seemed to make the transition to the other side of the diamond “pretty good”. Here he is taking a grounder down the line, in a photo by Brita Meng Outzen.
lowellfirst.JPG
“For everybody, it’s different,” Francona said. “From my standpoint, you’re seeing the ball off the bat from a completely different angle. It’s like left field, right field. I think as you get comfortable, if you can play third, you’re going to be able to catch the ball at first. But when it’s not to you at third, you can stand there. When it’s not hit to you at first, you better get to first. It’s just different real estate. But once you get comfortable over there, then the natural instincts take over.”

The Red Sox managed to get all their work in on Saturday, despite a downpour that started almost immediately when they came off the field.

“Everything, which was very fortunate,” Francona said. “Right when Pap took the mound, the groundskeeper came out and said, ‘you’ve got 10 more minutes’ which would have been a little different. But no, we got everything in. It wasn’t the best day ever but we got everything in. Guys got their throwing in, guys got their hitting and we’re OK.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka continues to climb back to full health in his recovery from a minor back injury.

“Dice-K today, he threw off the mound — just tossed off the mound. Today was kind of his down day because tomorrow is going to be 150 feet,” Francona said. “But he did it off the mound so he could at least be at that angle. He wasn’t throwing hard but just so he could get the feel of that angle because you can’t do that off the flatground. Tomorrow will be a pretty aggressive day, probably out to 140 or 150.”

Matuzaka should have a full-out bullpen session by early next week, perhaps Tuesday.

In case you missed it, the here is how the pitching lines up for the exhibition games.

Wednesday vs. Northeastern and Boston College — Casey Kelly and Boof Bonser.

Thursday at home vs. the Twins. Josh Beckett; Friday at the Twins complex. Jon Lester, piggybacked by Tim Wakefield. Saturday split squad at home vs. the Twins. John Lackey. Saturday on the road split squad. Felix Doubront; Sunday at Sarasota vs. the Orioles. Clay Buchholz.

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