Red Sox Notebook

Shortstop not in the hole early

Lowrie says his wrist feels better

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / February 15, 2009
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - Jed Lowrie was clear about one point. Though he spent much of last season playing through a wrist injury he incurred in May, with the situation worsening as the season wore on, it was "absolutely not" a mistake to play down the stretch. Lowrie's batting average, especially from the left side, might have suffered, but the Red Sox needed him with Julio Lugo on the shelf.

It's no longer an issue, with rest in the offseason leading to a healthy wrist coming into camp. But it means that the dropoff offensively last season can be explained away, yet another plus in his column as Lowrie sets about his true business of spring training - trying to win the starting shortstop job.

"From a pain threshold, I can't even describe the difference," Lowrie said. "I couldn't even really touch my wrist at the end of the year. It was painful.

"Obviously now that's not the case and I'll be interested to see [how it does] just as far as the strength aspect. They have a little test that we're going to do. I haven't done it since the end of the year. I'll be interested to see how much progress I've made."

Lowrie spent much of last season working with the training staff, taping the wrist to allow him to take the field every day. But it got more and more painful, and by the end of the year there was nothing to do. His strength was sapped, even as he continued to follow the same routine that had kept him playing.

"I'm not one to make excuses, but from the left side it really hindered my ability to swing with any sort of power or any sort of direct swing, so to speak," Lowrie said. "My wrist was just not strong enough to keep the barrel above the ball."

Lowrie has spent the last month in the Tampa area hitting and throwing every day, and he arrived at camp yesterday.

He's ready to compete for one of the few positional battles open. But he's not going to take on too much pressure. Knowing that the Sox understand what he can bring to the team, he's going to simply try to do what he can do. He knows he's not the one making out the lineup. He was, however, perfectly happy to push his candidacy.

"For me, I want the job," Lowrie said. "I want to be the starting shortstop.

"I also know that I'm not the one that's going to make those decisions. I just have to be who I am as a player and just let it take care of itself. I've got to be proactive in my work, stay focused on doing what I need to do, but then let that stuff take care of itself."

Division problem
Asked about the competition in the AL East this season, especially given the nearly $450 million spent by the Yankees, manager Terry Francona said, "Sounds like [we're] about $420 million behind the Yankees at the moment." Much has been made already of the three-headed monster that could be the division. General manager Theo Epstein mentioned Thursday that one prognosticator had picked the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays as the three best teams in all of baseball. "Our division is so good," Francona said yesterday. "We recognize that. I'm not real concerned today about [that]. We have our sights set on BC. You know what I mean by that. We need to get prepared for the season. We recognize how good our division is. We don't take anything for granted. We have lofty goals, but we also know that we have a great division."

Doubront dubious
There has been one minor casualty so far in camp. Lefthander Felix Doubront, in his first major league camp, has a lower back problem and did not throw yesterday. Doubront is likely to be out for the next couple of days. As for Tim Wakefield, who missed conditioning drills Friday, the knuckleballer has a sore lower back but got through yesterday's throwing session . . . The plan for the pitchers is to ease them into the fray this spring, especially because of the extra time in Fort Myers. "The thing we tried to tell the pitchers this morning before they came out was to do the PFPs [pitchers' fielding practice] professionally," Francona said. "When they're on the mound, don't try to do too much. Working up the arm strength. You'll hear the words 'arm strength' for probably the next two weeks. There will be plenty of time when the games start for them to show what they can do." . . . J.D. Drew showed up yesterday. The position players are not obligated to be in Fort Myers until tomorrow.

Whose duty calls?
Catcher George Kottaras has been wrestling with the idea of playing for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. But because he's competing for the backup job, the team has advised him that it might be better to remain with the club. "They've pointed out me staying here would kind of be the best situation for myself, even though that would be a great experience, too," he said. It appears that he is leaning toward not participating . . . Francona showed up at spring training sporting glasses. Instead of just wearing them off the field, he's been relegated to wearing them more often. As he told it yesterday, he went to his doctor thinking he just had allergies. Not quite. "No, you're blind," Francona reported he was told.

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