FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell spoke at the team's minor league training facility on Tuesday. He discussed his health and his status with the team this spring, following an offseason when the team nearly dealt him to the Rangers and then signed Adrian Beltre as his replacement at third.
Lowell, who turns 36 on Wednesday, said that his hip is significantly stronger (by his estimate, by times stronger) than it was last year when he reported. The veteran, who is now in his fifth spring training with the Sox, said that he's hitting off a tee and a week away from taking batting practice.
The third baseman is fully aware of the Sox' unsuccessful efforts to trade him this offseason due to the torn thumb ligament that required surgery. With the signing of Adrian Beltre, he also is aware that he surely will be available to interested teams. He could not predict whether he would be with the Sox on Opening Day.
"I have no idea," he said. "I really don't."
With no starting job in Boston, Lowell suggested that he "absolutely" is treating spring training like a tryout camp, and that he is more worried about his health than trade possibilities that would depend, after all, on his physical condition. So long as he is healthier than was the case a year ago, when he played 119 games and had 484 plate appearances for the Sox, Lowell did not foresee a need for him to become a bench player. He also said that the Sox have not talked to him about a bench role.
"I'm definitely healthier this year than last," he said. "I don't see why I should get less at-bats."
Lowell did acknowledge that there is lingering discomfort when he runs, but he also noted that speed has never been one of his relevant attributes to those who are evaluating his skills. He feels that he is only a few days behind his teammates in terms of readiness to play, and suggested that if it mattered, he would be physically ready to play when the exhibition season begins. That said, he anticipates lagging slightly behind his teammates in games, but he had no hesitation about whether he will be ready to play at the start of the season.
"I want to stress that I wasn't stressed [this offseason]," he said. "I'm pretty confident I'm going to be in the big leagues this year."
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