Lowell presence in lineup bittersweet

NEW YORK -- Red Sox first baseman Mike Lowell had just finished putting on his batting practice uniform. He must have felt the warm breath on the back of his neck because he quickly turned his chair around to face the middle of the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium and sat down.

In front of him stood 15-20 reporters, waiting to hear the veteran’s take on his season and what lies ahead.

It’s no secret by now that he’s been utterly frustrated, disappointed and hurt by his lack of playing time this season. Now, with Kevin Youkilis on the disabled list for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery Friday to repair a torn adductor muscle, Lowell finds himself as an everyday player once again.

How long will that last?

The Sox placed him on waivers Wednesday and Lowell has 48 hours to clear. If he is claimed, the Sox can pull him back, but if he clears the club can decide to trade him. That scenario is unlikely at this point given Youkilis’ situation.

Lowell figures to have his opportunity to play every day with Youkilis on the DL, and now comes word that the Red Sox worked out Carlos Delgado on Friday afternoon. Whether or not the Red Sox are seriously considering another option, Lowell isn’t concerned with it at the moment.

“That bridge I definitely don’t think should be crossed at this point,” Lowell said. “It’s a non-issue to me right now. There’s chatter and the team can look at all options they want, and you guys can write all the possibilities, but if there were something concrete that would be the proper time [I would discuss it]. I don’t want to speculate on something that’s not out there or will happen.”

Prior to the July 31 trade deadline, Lowell was on the DL with a strain in his surgically repaired hip. When he was deemed healthy enough to play, Lowell was sent on a minor league rehab assignment and tore it up at Triple-A Pawtucket.

There had been plenty of chatter the Sox were working on a deal with several teams, including the Yankees and the Blue Jays.

Lowell said he was aware the Red Sox and Yankees were having discussions, but there was no need to pursue a deal because New York is one of the four teams he can not be contractually dealt to.

“There was no point in pursuing it if I was going to reject it,” Lowell said. “It was presented as a chance, but I don’t know how far it had gotten. I don’t think I would have been made aware of it if there was no chance.”

“I’ve been in a lot of rumors and I’ve been traded twice in my life, so two trades in 12 years, if I’m traded I’ll go wherever they send me,” Lowell said.

Coincidentally, Lowell was originally drafted by the Yankees in the 20th round in 1995 before he was traded to the Florida Marlins in 1999. He said he has no ill will toward the Yankees, but there’s no way the Red Sox would want him to play for their rival. He thought about it during his brief stint on the DL, but he did not want his emotions to get the best of him.

“By no means do I have that New England hatred towards the Yankees,” he said. “I want to beat them on the baseball field. My emotions were all over the place at that time. It’s easy to tune it out, but that’s a little closer to home. So I just took the wait-and-see, but that’s just part of the emotional ups and downs of the whole year.”

Lowell admitted he did think about the possibility of playing his last game for the Red Sox during his time on the DL.

“I’m not disappointed it wasn’t,” he said. “It worked out good.”

He’s played three games in the last four days and is expected to be in the lineup for most of this four-game set against the Yankees. Given his recent trip to the DL, Lowell said he’s not nervous about suddenly playing every day.

"Nervous? Absolutely not,” he said. “I gauge how I feel the next morning, but I still maintain I ran out for the first 50 games last year, so four out of five I’m not worried about.”

As much as he wanted to play all season, being back in the lineup is bittersweet for Lowell.

“Not at Kevin Youkilis’ expense, not our cleanup hitter. Absolutely not,” Lowell said. “My goal was not to see whether I could get at-bats because someone got hurt. My goal was to have an opportunity to play because I was healthier than I was in 2009. I don’t think anything has changed since the first day I spoke during spring training.”

“Am I happy that I’m playing? Yeah, I enjoying playing baseball, but with Kevin Youkilis not on our team we’re not better. Do I think I can plug the hole? I’m going to try my best. This wasn’t the process I was hoping for. Not at all.”

As far as playing first base on a regular basis for the first time in his career, Lowell admits it still feels new to him. He’s comfortable enough, but he’s still learning.

“It’s a minor work in progress, but I’m looking to get better and not worse,” he said.

He’s also talked about the possibility of retirement once his contract expires at the end of this season. Now that he’s working on being a little more versatile by playing the other side of the diamond, he’s not focused on the future.

“I’m not worried about whether that’s going to help me be more marketable to another team. That really hasn’t entered my mind,” Lowell said. “We’ll leave next year for next year.”

Physically, he says, he’s feeling a lot better than he did a season ago when “97.5 percent of the time I felt horrible.”

“I would say the most telling test is when I jog I don’t feel like someone is shoving a knife in my [butt]. That really feels good when it doesn’t happen. Not literally in the [butt], but on the right buttocks. That’s how it felt.”

At least his sense of humor is back.