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Northwest passage

Posted by Maureen Mullen January 15, 2009 05:57 AM

The Hall of Fame second baseman called and requested a lunch with the shortstop who had just finished his rookie season. Honored, the younger player agreed.

“I was a little bit [nervous], yeah,” Jed Lowrie said of meeting fellow Oregon native Bobby Doerr recently. “I heard so much about him. We just met at the Outback there in Eugene. He just showed up in a regular jacket and some khakis, and you would have never known. He talked about Babe Ruth and Bob Feller and all these different guys, Ty Cobb, like they were just normal guys. And these are legends of the game.

“It’s amazing,” Lowrie said. “Bobby’s sitting there talking about how he had Babe Ruth autograph a bat for him, and it’s just amazing. I had a great time. It was only about an hour and a half, two hours, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.”

Well, maybe not every minute.

“We got to talking,” Lowrie said. “Some formalities at first, then about five minutes into it he’s like, ‘Why the hell do you keep popping up the ball? You’re always making contact, why do you keep popping up?’ And I was like, ‘Well, you know, Bobby, I broke my wrist.’ And I didn’t want to make an excuse right away but I was like, ‘I had a broken wrist and I felt like I just didn’t have the strength toward the end of the year.’ And he looked at me like, ‘Well, I guess that’s a pretty good excuse.’”

Lowrie initially injured the wrist while playing for Pawtucket in mid-May. The cumulative effects of the broken ulnar styloid, combined with a partially torn ligament and a bone bruise, led him to overcompensate in his swing.

Lowrie made his big-league debut last April two days before he turned 24, playing third base in place of an injured Mike Lowell and driving in three runs in a 5-3 win in Cleveland. He was called up for good just before the All-Star break. Despite going 3-for-7 in two games in the ALDS and driving in Jason Bay with the series-clinching run against the Angels, Lowrie hit just .207 combined in the playoffs (including 2-for-18 in the ALCS) and .213 in September. The switch-hitter ended the regular season at .258 (.338 from right side, .222 as a lefty).

After a cortisone shot and about a month of rest, Lowrie says the bone is healthy. He estimates the wrist is back to about 80 percent of full strength and should be close to 100 percent when position players report to spring training Feb. 16, thanks to continuing physical therapy.

“It’s actually kind of silly, some of the things,” he said. “I literally take a paper clip and I squeeze the paper clip with my fingers. Put a rubber band around my fingers and spread them out, and I was amazed, too, the first time. I just had a rubber band around my pinky and my ring finger and I could barely separate them, my hand was so weak. And it’s getting better. So just the little things, those little muscles that you wouldn’t think would even matter make all the difference in the world.”

Lowrie’s name has come up frequently in trade rumors, as it did in the last off-season.

“Last season when I got mentioned in those trade rumors, my buddy wrote me a text message,” Lowrie said. “‘I heard you’re going to be a Twin.’ I wasn’t even thinking Minnesota Twins, and I didn’t even know what he was talking about. So, I try to keep my head out of it. I see the signings, and I see what’s going on, but as far as the rumor mill and all that, I try to stay away from it. When it happens, it happens.”

So he’ll head to spring training this year not as the rookie trying to impress, but as the guy who’s been there.

“Last year I came into spring training, and I don’t want to say ‘happy to be there,’ but at the same time I just wanted to show everybody what I could do,” he said. “And this year just getting myself ready, getting prepared, and just seeing where it takes me.”

And he’ll have a memento waiting for him back home.

“Bobby Doerr, the oldest living Hall of Famer, and I got his autograph,” Lowrie said. “It’s sitting in my safe at home in Arizona. I was pretty excited to get that autograph.”

Maureen Mullen covers the Red Sox for OT and can be reached at mmullen@globe.com

1 comments so far...
  1. I love this kid. Smart, well-coordinated, and all ball. It will be fun to watch him grow with the club this year!

    Posted by Elaine Apthorp January 16, 09 09:11 PM
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