Much still up in the air for Lowell

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / December 23, 2009

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One thing is clear in the wake of the aborted trade between Boston and Texas: Mike Lowell, at least for the moment, is still a member of the Red Sox. The details beyond that are a bit murky.

Lowell, who is expected to have surgery after the holidays to repair the torn ligament in his right thumb, recently told that the discussion about the thumb was “constant and open’’ from the time the injury occurred. So why didn’t the Sox determine the severity of the problem? Why did it take a physical by the Rangers’ doctors to get to this point? And where will Lowell be used this spring, provided he is still a member of the Sox by the time they break camp in Fort Myers, Fla.?

It appears clear the Sox’ doctors didn’t catch the injury, but it’s not entirely clear why. Though they should have given Lowell an MRI at the time, that didn’t happen until December, when the symptoms still had not gone away.

“I’ve had very open and honest communication with the training and medical staff,’’ Lowell told “The day this thing happened it was X-rayed and I told them about the pain, which was Oct. 2. We taped it up in a way that we thought would help me in the postseason. They thought it might be a strain or bone bruise. I don’t want to lay blame on anybody because in ’07 my other thumb got hurt and they thought it was a strain as well and it ended up being that way, and everything settled down nice and easy.’’

Lowell, who did not respond to messages left by the Globe, explained at the two-week and four-week marks, nothing had changed with the thumb. Seven weeks after the injury, trainer Mike Reinold flew to Florida to visit Lowell, and the thumb was put in a splint to immobilize it for a month. Lowell finally was ordered to get an MRI Dec. 7, the first day of the winter meetings.

“I understand the business,’’ Lowell said. “I have no problem in them shopping me around. But I would have preferred to have this surgery in October once the season was officially over [if the severity of the injury had been known then]. I don’t want to race to spring training.’’

Lowell should be ready soon after he arrives in camp, which will be about eight weeks after the surgery. But if he is with the Sox, it appears unlikely he’ll be preparing for a starting role.

The Sox seem committed to dealing the third baseman or - barring a major trade or signing - using him in a lesser role with Kevin Youkilis and Casey Kotchman getting more time at third and first base.

The team has been in contact with Lowell, including messages left for him by manager Terry Francona. As Francona said yesterday, “Just kind of doing what we always do. We try to make things work the best we can for the Red Sox.’’

At the end of last season, when his playing time was cut down by a third base/first base/catcher rotation that included the newly acquired Victor Martinez, Lowell made it apparent that he wasn’t happy with the situation. Nor is he likely to be happy with that same issue this season. That’s why the team has been trying to move him, because the Sox aren’t committed to keeping him a starter, according to a baseball source. The Sox went so far as to offer to take on $9 million of Lowell’s $12 million salary in 2010 if the Rangers made the deal.

The Sox maintain they’re comfortable with Kotchman at first base. Or perhaps they’re scrambling to find a bat to fill one of the corner infield spots, though a major league source said late last week that there had been no movement between the Sox and the Padres on Adrian Gonzalez of late.

As for Lowell’s future, he told, “I have no idea. I have absolutely no idea. That’s not my department.’’

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