ALDS outlook dim for Lowell, Drew
Outfielder may play on Sunday; third baseman keeps resting
BOSTON -- Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell woke up on Saturday and wasn't as sore as he thought he would be. To bring perspective to how frustrating his right hip injury has been, that qualifies as reasonably good news.
But it doesn't decrease any of the uncertainty when it comes to the Lowell's availability for the American League Division Series, which starts on Wednesday against the Angels in Anaheim.
The same goes for right fielder J.D. Drew, who continues to have big problems with a back that has kept him off the field for all but one game since Aug. 17.
Drew is penciled in to start Game 1 of Sunday's day-night doubleheader against the Yankees, which will conclude the regular season. Drew attempted a comeback on Wednesday, playing three innings, but he was shelved for the next three days.
"The plan was to keep playing, but when he said we couldn't, he didn't," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Then he said he can, so we will. We've been trying to play him, and he says he hasn't been able to, so we haven't played him. We're going to try to play Game 1. Now, again, if he wakes up in the morning [feeling OK], we're trying to hit on the field. I don't know if that's even going to be possible. If we need to make an adjustment, we will."
In a way, the Lowell matter is more pressing because the Red Sox have been playing on without Drew for weeks. Boston also has more depth in the outfield, particularly from a defensive standpoint, with Coco Crisp and Mark Kotsay available when Drew isn't.
The Red Sox could badly use Lowell -- for his offense, his defense and his stabilizing influence on the rest of the team.
Lowell, after taking a nine-day rest, had to come out of Friday's game after one at-bat. He will not play on Sunday.
"Mikey was actually a little surprised he felt as good as he did," said Francona. "Last time he did this, or had an episode in [St. Petersburg], he woke up the next day and was really sore. So I think that was somewhat encouraging. You know what we'll do -- we'll let him spend the next couple of days, let the medical people work with him."
Because of Lowell's importance, the Red Sox will let the decision go to the wire. The ALDS roster is due on the morning of Game 1.
"We'll get him out there Tuesday and run him through a workout and see how he does," said Francona. "I visited with Mikey last night -- I visited with him this morning. We're on the same page. He's a tough kid, maybe the toughest I've ever seen. He's hurting. We'll evaluate how he's doing and go from there. He's not ready to quit, so we would not quit on him."
As for Drew, things just don't look good. Perhaps if he gets through Sunday without a hitch, the outlook will be more optimistic.
"Oh, I think everyone is concerned, especially myself," Drew said. "I played the other night, played three innings. I didn't feel great by any means, but I got through it. But I felt decent when I left the game, and thought I would be ready for the next day. Then I went out and ran some sprints, and that kind of set everything off. I had to come in and hit in the cage for a few swings, and that didn't work out too well. I did some treatment, and was pretty stiff."
The Red Sox's medical staff has tried everything, from cortisone shots to epidurals to every conceivable treatment. To date, nothing has worked.
"We can't really figure it out," Drew said. "I've got the herniated disk, and we've treated and treated and did exercises for over a month. I continue to get stiff after exercise or baseball activities or sitting for a while, driving to the ballpark."
Like Lowell, Drew isn't going to give up early.
"I'm trying to do everything I can to get myself into shape," said Drew. "If something breaks, I can go in and make a run in the playoffs and participate. If it doesn't get any better, it's definitely a scratch, and we've got three or four months to let it get better. But at this point, I'm working with the trainers to get to a point where I can be on the roster if everything is healthy. I can't in good conscience say I'm ready to go and then leave Tito stranded the next day because I'm not even able to walk."
If there's anyone who can empathize with Lowell, it is Drew.
"It's tough, because I watched Mikey and I kind of felt for him because I know how I felt," Drew said. "You can see it visually with Mikey when he checks his swing just how much pain he's in. I'm able to do things, and I get to a position where I have to put my body in a certain position to even make an effort to walk some days. I know Mikey wants to go out there and perform just like I do, especially in the postseason. I think we're both scratching our heads a little bit."
If Lowell can't play, the Red Sox can go with several combinations. Kevin Youkilis could move to third base, with either Sean Casey or Kotsay playing first. There's also the possibility of Jed Lowrie moving from shortstop to third, and Alex Cora playing short.
If Lowell and Drew aren't on the roster, it could open up reserve spots for Jeff Bailey or Chris Carter, two late-season callups.
"We'll do the best we can," said Francona. "We'll continue to evaluate, and we'll see where we are. We're in the midst of talking to players, not making decisions on the roster, but who would go with us [to Anaheim] and who wouldn't. We'll send some guys to Instructional League. We certainly want to cover ourselves. Because of some of our health issues, we probably will take a couple of more people with us than maybe normally we would."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.