With Mike Lowell on DL, Will Boston Red Sox Make Move?

Sean KennedyCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 15:  Mike Lowell #25 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game on April 15, 2009 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

On Monday, doctors in Boston drained fluid from Lowell’s hip and gave him an injection of a lubricating fluid, Synvisc. Apparently, the 35-year-old third baseman needs some time for the inflammation to subside and the procedures to take effect. 

With the All Star break just 13 days away, this is an opportune time (if there is such a thing) for the Sox to put Lowell on the shelf. The move is retroactive to June 28.

Lowell has been a steady presence in the Sox lineup this season, playing in 68 of the team’s first 76 games, before being temporarily derailed. However, he had started just two of the team’s previous nine games, so it was clear that he was ailing.

Yet, Lowell has been remarkably durable for player coming off of major hip surgery, and highly productive as well, batting .282 with 10 HR and 41 RBI. 

With the announcement, the speculation will now begin as to what the Sox will do next. 

Jeff Bailey was recalled from Pawtucket, but he seems like a short term option at best. In 53 career games in the Majors, Bailey is batting .219 with 6 HR and 16 RBI.

With Kevin Youkilis being a natural third baseman, the Sox also have the option of using Mark Kotsay, who is hitting .310 this season, at first.

David Ortiz is another option, though he was a mess in the field during recent inter-league play. He is far too capable of turning a routine play into a misadventure. A lot of that is due to rust since he doesn’t play in the field that often, but he simply isn’t mobile or agile. Kotsay will likely see the bulk of the action, depending on how Bailey plays.

The big question is whether the Sox will explore a trade to make up for Lowell’s absence, and take pressure off him when he returns. The season isn’t even halfway over yet, and already the everyday grind has worn the veteran down.

Perhaps the Red Sox will revisit the proposed Takashi Saito for Hank Blalock deal. Texas reportedly backed away from the deal, feeling they needed Blalock’s offense when slugger Josh Hamilton went down with an injury.

But it’s hard to imagine the Sox being particularly enamored with a guy who is currently hitting .237 with a .283 OBP. Blalock, the former third baseman, has also been riddled with shoulder and hamstring injuries over the past two years, each of which tends to be chronic.

The shoulder injury in particular, which affected his throwing arm, in addition to the emergence of Elvis Andrus and the resulting move of Michael Young to third, reduced Blalock to a DH role in Texas.

The Yankees, in what appears to be a classic blocking move, traded for former Sox corner infielder Eric Hinske on Tuesday. Hinske is exactly the type of inexpensive, yet experienced, veteran the Sox might have liked.

The Yankees, who already have A-Rod, Ramiro Pena and Cody Ransom at third, plus Nick Swisher, who plays first base as well as outfield, already seemed to possess a stacked infield. That’s what makes this move look like it was designed to thwart the Red Sox.

I honestly don’t think the Sox are desperate right now. I think they’ll look to solve this internally first, perhaps having Jed Lowrie play some third base when he returns. The emergence of Nick Green gives the Sox some flexibility in this area.

And if they feel that Lowrie can handle playing the hot corner, then he may be given every opportunity to do so until Lowell is healthy enough to play again. Even then, Lowrie could spell Lowell and give him some much needed rest and time off each week.

The problem with that scenario is that Lowrie is still on the DL himself, and may not be ready to return soon enough to help. During a minor league game on Sunday, while rehabbing his wrist injury, Lowrie was hit on the back of the knee by a pitch. The result was a significant bruise and swelling, which will likely slow his return.

At this point, the Sox can only hope that Lowrie returns before Lowell, which would have been a given before the knee injury. 

Lowrie is expected to play again Saturday for Pawtucket, but he was initially expected to be there for a couple of weeks before being activated. The original timetable called for him to return just before the All Star break. 

Lowrie had only played in five games before being put on the DL April 12. And the 25-year-old had just one hit in 18 at-bats at the time, so he’d barely gotten out of the gate and shaken off the winter rust before being deactivated. 

As Terry Francona said, “It’s like he’s starting Spring Training over again, and tack on a [left wrist] surgery with it.” 

The Sox want Lowrie back as soon as possible, but they certainly don’t want to rush an unprepared player.

“He’s the only one that knows how that wrist feels. We don’t want to rush him. We’ll do what’s right. If he’s ready to play, he’ll play,” Francona said last week.

With Lowell under contract for one more year, the Sox are just looking for a temporary solution. While many are calling for the Sox to trade what is viewed as a surplus of relief pitching, the Sox don’t need to do anything rash or regrettable. Management is dealing from a position of strength, due having the AL’s best record and the game’s best bullpen.

They surely want to be careful about messing with the chemistry and depth of a bullpen that has served them so well this season.