With reports emerging Thursday morning that the Cleveland Indians have designated right-hander Derek Lowe for assignment, the Boston Red Sox have been handed a huge opportunity to shore up their starting rotation at a minimal cost.
The Sox should easily be able to bring Lowe back to Boston, where his career began. Indeed, they’d be foolish not to.
Lowe has struggled mightily of late, leading to his departure from Cleveland. However, it would likely only cost the Sox a low-level prospect to bring the 39-year-old back for one last go-round in a Red Sox uniform.
Sentimentality aside, this would be a wise move for the organization to make, as depth in the starting rotation has once again become an issue.
Although Bobby Valentine doesn’t believe Josh Beckett’s latest injury has the right-hander headed to the DL, nobody truly knows how his back is going to respond the next time he tries to throw a ball. After a terrific start to his Sox career, Aaron Cook has scuffled of late as well. He posted a 2.16 ERA over his first five starts, but in his last two has allowed 12 earned runs in just 8.2 innings pitched (a 12.46 ERA).
With these two slots in the rotation so uncertain, why not take a flier on a pitcher who has proven that he can succeed in Boston, win on the big stage and is universally adored by Sox fans?
For the PR machine that the Red Sox have become, bringing Lowe back is a no-brainer. They can run back the highlights of his clutch save to beat Oakland in the 2003 playoffs, his historically great performances in the 2004 playoffs (only pitcher in history to win all three deciding games of his team’s playoff series) and his no-hitter at Fenway (the first Sox no-hitter thrown at home in 37 years).
He is a reminder to fans of past glory, and bringing back a member of 2004’s beloved championship squad would restore interest in a way few other players in MLB could.
Although he has struggled on the mound of late, let’s not forget that Lowe got off to a phenomenal start to this season. Over his first nine starts (58.2 IP), he was 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA, averaging almost 104 pitches per start.
Lowe’s recent tailspin (2-8, 8.80 ERA in his last 12 starts) can partially be attributed to this heavy workload. At 39, it’s unreasonable to expect him to be consistently great while throwing that many pitches in each outing.
Lowe also has been exceptionally unlucky over this period of poor results; during his 12-start funk, Lowe’s BAbip allowed is a staggering .368 (the MLB average usually hovers in the .290-.300 range). A regression to the mean would subsequently beget a significant improvement in his overall numbers.
While Lowe is certainly not the pitcher he used to be, it’s hard to fathom he has all of a sudden become as bad as his last two months indicate. Given the struggles of the Sox’s starting rotation, there seems to be little harm in surrendering a low-level prospect to give Lowe a chance.
If nothing else, it will spark huge local interest in the team as they continue through this critical juncture of their season.