Jed Lowrie joined a team packed with young homegrown talent when he made his major league debut with the Red Sox in 2008.
The Sox had Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, and Dustin Pedroia, among others, on a team that had just won the World Series.
Lowrie, a supplemental first-round pick from Stanford, fit right in. A switch-hitting infielder with power, he drove in three runs in the first game.
Now Lowrie is the only one of that group still playing. At 38, he’s the oldest member of the Oakland Athletics and plays the role of part-time infielder and full-time mentor on a team that’s rebuilding.
“That was the goal, to play this long. But you never know,” Lowrie said. “Not too many guys get that opportunity.”
Lowrie’s best moment with the Red Sox came in Game 4 of the 2008 Division Series against the Angels. His two-out single in the ninth inning scored Jason Bay and gave the Sox a walkoff win to clinch the series.
Mark Kotsay made the second out of that inning. He’s now Lowrie’s manager.
“That game is a great memory,” Lowrie said. “Beyond that it was getting to learn from all those guys. I was around Dustin, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek, players like that. It was a great experience.”
Lowrie’s time with Boston also was marked by setbacks. He had surgery on his left wrist in 2009. A long bout with mononucleosis cost him the first half of the 2010 season. Lowrie also missed considerable time with a shoulder injury in 2011.
The Sox traded Lowrie to the Astros for closer Mark Melancon after the ‘11 season. Lowrie has since had three stints with the Athletics and two seasons with the Mets. Along the way, Lowrie has appeared in 23 postseason games, collected 1,183 hits, and earned more than $60 million.
“Jed’s had a really good career,” Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran said. “He went through a lot in terms of injuries. But he persevered through it. When he was on the field for us, he was always an important contributor.”
Lowrie re-signed with Oakland this season for $850,000, only $150,000 more than the minimum. Retirement was an option, but he wasn’t ready.
“I love this; I really do,” he said. “There’s no other job I know of where you can get to face the best in the world and challenge yourself on a daily basis.
“This is a hard game. I don’t care what stage you are as a team, it’s all about getting better. That’s the goal for this group. You have to maintain that mentality.”
How baseball is played has changed dramatically since Lowrie broke into the majors with the rise of analytics and some managers often playing more not to lose than win.
“The game is at an inflection point where we’re trying to balance entertainment with analytics,” he said. “Moneyball feels like a relic now. From an entertainment standpoint, I would say it’s not good for the game.
“But at the same time the analytics aren’t wrong and they removed some inefficiencies in the game. I hope with some of the changes they’re talking about it becomes a more entertaining game.”
Lowrie’s long-term goal is to find a meaningful role in baseball once he finishes his playing career. He’ll also get to spend more time with his wife, Milessa, and their two children.
“I want to stay in baseball and I believe I will. I just don’t know how that will manifest itself and at what level,” Lowrie said. “That’s something I need to explore.”
Portland, Ore., has long been considered a candidate for an expansion team. Lowrie, an Oregon native, would welcome the opportunity to work with a team there and help build a franchise from the ground up.
“If that were to come to fruition I’d love to get involved in some way,” he said.
Coaching at the youth level or working for Major League Baseball are other avenues he will explore.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see him stay in the game,” O’Halloran said. “He’s a smart guy with a good personality.”
When Lowrie was in Boston this past week, he had dinner in Cambridge on Monday with Peter and Widgie Aldrich, his host family from the Red Sox 2008 Rookie Development Program.
All this time later, they remain good friends.
“We found him to be extraordinarily bright, charming, and polite,” said Peter Aldrich, a retired investor who now pursues his interest in painting. “We’ve gotten to know Jed’s wife and attended their wedding. She’s a terrific person, too.
“It’s been a nice relationship over the years. To see him play this long, he deserves a lot of credit.”
Lowrie was on the roster but didn’t play when the Athletics were at Fenway Park this past week because of a wrist injury. It may have been his last time at the park in uniform.
“I have a lot of good memories in Boston,” Lowrie said. “This is where it started for me.”
Devers taking on a leadership role
The statistics speak to what kind of season Rafael Devers is having. But Red Sox manager Alex Cora saw a difference in his 25-year-old third baseman when the games didn’t count.
“The way he acted in spring training, you had a feeling that it was going to be something like this and it’s coming true,” Cora said.
“More mature, very confident. The way he talked. The way people gravitated to him. Around the league people know who he is. We saw that in spring training. When we played the Braves, everybody went to him. When we played the Rays, everybody went to him. You could see it.”
Teammates and coaches also point to Devers gaining a better command of English and becoming more willing to speak up in pregame meetings.
“He’s a leader,” third base coach Carlos Febles said. “He’s not afraid to give his opinion. It’s great to see how he’s grown as a person.”
When Chris Sale threw a simulated game on Thursday, nearly all of the Red Sox pitchers were on hand to watch and support their teammate. The position players were busy getting treatment or hitting in the cage.
But Devers came out of the clubhouse and took a seat behind the home dugout to watch. It was a subtle way of showing his respect for Sale while at the same time demonstrating he understands his place on the team.
You also see that in how comfortably Devers interacts with reporters and doesn’t shy away from attention as he once did.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ On several occasions this season, Cora has praised the work Triple A pitching coach Paul Abbott has done with the depth pitchers the Sox have used.
Rookies Kutter Crawford and Josh Winckowski are examples of pitchers who struggled the first time they were called up and were better the second time.
“He’s been a huge help,” said Winckowski, who pitched five scoreless innings to beat Oakland on Wednesday. “Different than pitching coaches I’ve had in the past in that he’d helped me out on the mound and off the mound, as well.
“We’ve talked a lot about reading hitters and sequencing your pitches. I have a long way to go, but he’s helped me a ton. He encourages you, but he also curbs it at the right time.”
▪ The Cardinals and Dodgers have used position players to pitch while having big leads this season rather than waste a reliever.
Cora considered that on May 26, a 16-7 victory over the White Sox in Chicago.
“I’m not there yet,” he said. “It’s hard to do. I get the point; you should get three outs. But if all of a sudden something happens, you have to rush somebody to get ready and you never know.”
▪ Here’s an odd one: Tanner Houck has three Defensive Runs Saved, tied for second most in the majors among pitchers. That despite having played only 42⅔ innings in the field.
“I do? I had no idea,” Houck said. “I’ve always tried to play good defense, but I don’t think I’ve done anything special.”
Several Sox coaches mentioned that Houck makes strong throws on balls back to the mound. For some pitchers, throwing to the bases can be an issue. Houck also is athletic enough to make plays other pitchers wouldn’t try.
▪ Through Thursday, the Red Sox had three complete games, as many as the other 14 American League teams combined.
▪ Jackie Bradley Jr. went to The Country Club to watch a US Open practice round. Grayson Murray, a baseball fan, spotted Bradley and asked him to play No. 2 for him.
Bradley two-putted for a bogey on the 215-yard par-3.
“I’ve played there before but never with so many people watching,” Bradley said. “That was fun.”
The best team meeting ever?
Team meetings get a lot of attention after they happen but are generally overrated.
Most managers prefer to communicate to players individually and save the group meetings for when there’s no other alternative.
That was the case for Brian Snitker, who called the Braves together in Arizona on June 1 after the defending World Series champions fell to 23-27.
Atlanta then won 14 in a row, the streak coming to an end with a 1-0 loss against the Cubs on Friday. The victories were against the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Athletes, Pirates, and Nationals but that many in a row against any competition is impressive.
The streak took the Braves from 10½ games out of first place in the National League East to four games.
Snitker said his message to the players was they had veered “off the tracks” and needed to regain their focus and sense of purpose. There was no shouting, just a reminder to stay in the moment.
Snitker’s mentor is former Braves manager Bobby Cox, who was a screamer when it came to the umpires but not his players. The low-key approach works for him.
That the Braves needed a meeting speaks to how hard it is in baseball to repeat as champion. No team has done it since the 1998-2000 Yankees. No National League team has repeated as Series champs since the 1975-76 Reds.
Michael Harris, a 21-year-old rookie outfielder, has helped spark the Braves. He is a Georgia native who was a third-round pick out of high school in 2019. Harris hit .328 with an .894 OPS and 11 RBIs through his first 18 games.
Harris also has played Gold Glove-caliber defense.
“They have a lot of different players from the team they had in October,” a rival executive said. “But they could be just as good in time.”
Oakland starter Frankie Montas is the hottest name on the trade market. His lack of postseason experience (5⅔ innings, all in 2020) isn’t ideal, but Montas has averaged close to six innings per start and cut down on his walks. The question is whether the Athletics will move him soon or risk the possibility of injury by waiting … If New York has been the capital of baseball this season, is Chicago the junkyard? The White Sox went into the weekend in third place in the American League Central and have been one of the most disappointing teams in the game. The Cubs were 23-40 and tied for the second-worst record in the National League. Bad times were expected for the Cubs, who are rebuilding. But the White Sox believed they were World Series contenders. Instead, their lineup has lacked power, the rotation has been inconsistent, and the defense is well below average. Tony La Russa also is catching heat for some curious decisions, something he generally escaped last season when he returned to the dugout … The news that third baseman Anthony Rendon will have season-ending wrist surgery has far-reaching implications beyond his $245 million contract looking like a terrible mistake for the Angels. Shohei Ohtani, who can become a free agent after the 2023 season, has said his focus is on winning a championship. If the Angels have an eighth consecutive losing season, Ohtani will need a lot of convincing to stay around beyond a new contract unless significant changes are made in the coming offseason … On Wednesday, Houston’s Luis Garcia and Phil Maton became the first teammates to register immaculate innings in the same game. An immaculate inning is three strikeouts on nine pitches. The Astros beat the Rangers, 9-2, as their pitchers struck out 14 … Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson won his first eight games after replacing Joe Girardi. As any good New Englander knows, Joe Morgan set the record of 12 to begin a managerial career when he took over the Red Sox from John McNamara in 1988. Morgan is now 91 … The Ted Williams Baseball Camp Alumni and Friends will host a Jimmy Fund benefit on July 16 from 12-4 p.m. at the Loon Pond Lodge at 28 Precinct Street in Lakeville. The event will include food, drinks, music, and a silent auction with autographed sports memorabilia, Red Sox tickets, golf packages, gift cards, and more. The items include tickets for entry to the Hall of Fame on July 24, the day of David Ortiz’s induction. Tickets are $30. Go to Eventbrite.com and search “Ted Williams Camp” for information. Register by July 10 … Happy birthday to Doug Mientkiewicz, who is 48. “Eye Chart” played only three months for the Red Sox in 2004 but they were memorable. Mientkiewicz was obtained from the Twins on July 31 and started 26 games at first base in the regular season. He was a defensive sub in the postseason and famously caught the final out of the World Series. Mientkiewicz tried to keep the ball, touching off a bit of a feud with the team that was settled when the sides agreed to donate it to the Hall of Fame. After 12 seasons in the majors, Mientkiewicz is a licensed captain who owns Olympic Gold Fishing, a charter service in Islamorada, Fla. Bruce Chen is 45. The lefthander from Panama played 17 seasons in the majors, including five games for the Red Sox in 2003. In 2011, had the Red Sox played in a tiebreaker game at the end of the season, Theo Epstein was working on a plan to obtain Chen from the Royals to start. He had cleared waivers and was eligible to be traded. But the Sox finished their collapse by losing Game 162 and Chen did not return … Happy Father’s Day, especially to the guy who in 1974 told his son to run down to the Red Sox dugout to get Juan Marichal’s autograph because he would be in the Hall of Fame someday. He was right about that and a lot of things since.