Lowe resigned to likelihood of trade
Righty regards late-season woes as Braves' motivation
ATLANTA -- When Derek Lowe entered this offseason, he found himself frustrated by an inability to correct his mechanical flaws and was determined to be more of an asset to the Braves during the final three years of his contract.
But now that he's gained the hope that his mechanical struggles are in the past, Lowe is looking toward a future that he doesn't believe will include an association with the Braves.
From his Ft. Myers, Fla., residence, Lowe has spent the past couple weeks and months reading about the possibility that he will be the high-priced starting pitcher whom the Braves will trade to gain the financial flexibility necessary to fill their offensive needs.
Recently, he has gained the belief that he should simply prepare for the probability that he won't be pitching in Atlanta when the 2010 season begins.
"I'm just waiting for it to happen," Lowe said. "I don't think it's a matter of if anymore. It's just a matter of when."
Lowe's thoughts were intensified this week, when John Lackey signed with the Red Sox and the Mariners added former American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee to their rotation.
Suddenly there was speculation that the Angels had to account for the loss of Lackey and counteract Seattle's acquisition by acquiring a front-of-the-rotation starter like Lowe.
While indicating that he does plan to move one of his starting pitchers, Braves general manager Frank Wren has never stated exactly whom he intends to move.
But it has long been known that he intends to move either Lowe, who is owed $45 million over the next three seasons, or Javier Vazquez, who will make $11.5 million before becoming eligible for free agency at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
Still, as time has passed, Lowe has determined that he is the guy that the Braves want to trade.
"It kind of [upsets] you in a way," Lowe said. "It's well-documented that I stunk the last two months of the season. But I look at it as, 'Am I the only guy who has struggled for a couple of months in his first season after signing as a free agent?'"
While looking for an ace to add to their reconstructed starting rotation last year, the Braves provided Lowe with a four-year, $60 million contract that led critics to proclaim that they had overpaid for the veteran sinkerballer.
When Lowe went 7-3 with a 3.44 ERA in his first 13 starts, it appeared he was going to prove to be the durable and effective hurler the Braves envisioned. At this time, it seemed Vazquez would likely be the odd man out if the Braves opted to exercise Tim Hudson's option and involve him in their plans for this upcoming season.
But as Vazquez continued to mount a career-best season, Lowe went 8-7 with a 5.59 ERA in his final 21 starts and suddenly became expendable when Hudson returned from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in September and provided the club reason to pick up his option.
"I take it kind of personal," Lowe said. "Noboby made them give me a four-year, $60 million contract. There wasn't a ransom or anybody holding a gun to their heads. It was a negotiation and that's what they viewed as fair. I would have never even considered going there if I knew that ultimately this was going to happen."
Since the season concluded, Lowe said that he has been bothered by the fact that he hasn't had any conversations with any members of the Braves organization.
But the Braves have made contact with Lowe's agent, Scott Boras, to explain the reason they are looking to trade either Lowe or Vazquez.
"By not speaking, that speaks as much as anything," Lowe said. "It's kind of unsettling because you're just sitting here."
Looking back on the 15-win season that he just completed, Lowe believes he essentially had two forgettable months. But he acknowledged he began experiencing a snowball effect began during his June 14 start against the Orioles -- one that he remembers as being as uncomfortable as any he had experienced since 2004.
"I just got messed up and couldn't get out of my own way," said the 36-year-old Lowe, who contends that his struggles were a mechanical issue and not a sign that age was deteriorating his physical skills.
As soon as the offseason began, Lowe started analyzing his delivery over the years and comparing it to the form he displayed during the latter portion of this past season. Immediately he saw that he was bent over too far at the start of his delivery and ending his delivery with his left arm flying open.
These were things he and Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell noticed during the season. But the four days in between starts never proved to be enough time to make the necessary adjustments.
"I could see it, I just couldn't stop it," Lowe said. "There was no middle ground for me. I had 21 quality starts out of 34 and the other 13 were tragic."
Confident that he has made the adjustments to regain the form that has allowed him to be one of the game's most durable and successful pitchers dating back to 2002, when he joined the Red Sox rotation, Lowe is looking forward to the upcoming season.
But for now, he feels that he has no choice but to wonder if his days with the Braves are done after just one season.
"If I had pitched all year long like I did during the last two months, then I can understand why there might be a feeling that things aren't working out," Lowe said. "If I had won five or six games, then I could see calling it a complete disappointment."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.