Lowell's knee stiff; doesn't rule out DL

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox infielder Mike Lowell, his left knee stiff and sore after it was struck by a foul ball off his bat, said Saturday he was relieved it was nothing more than a bruise but didn't rule out the possibility that he may have to begin the season on the disabled list because he has had only 10 at-bats this spring.

Lowell had planned on playing in back-to-back games for the first time this spring, but that plan was abandoned in the first inning Friday, when he fouled a pitch that struck just below his left kneecap. X-rays were negative and he was diagnosed with just a bruised knee, but Lowell was scratched from Saturday's lineup in Sarasota, where he was to have served as DH, instead receiving further treatment on the knee.

"I just want to get over the hump where I've got some at-bats to where I feel I've got some good rhythm going into the season, no matter what the situation was,'' he said. "Do I still think it's possible to get them? Yeah, but I was really looking forward to having a day where you get four at-bats, maybe make a little adjustment, get that rhythm. It would have been great, fantastic.

"I don't think it's the end of the world, but I'm definitely disappointed. I was probably looking forward more to these two days than any days this spring.''

Still, it could have been worse. Lowell, who fell to the ground in pain after fouling off the pitch, said that when the pain didn't subside right away, he feared a more serious injury.

"It caught a little bone just under the kneecap,'' he said. "If it hit the kneecap, or just to the left of where I hit it, it might have been more serious.''

Lowell said on Saturday that he was unable to flex his knee all the way. If he can hit on Sunday, he said, he'd like to play, but said that remains to be seen.

Asked if he thought he might have to go on the DL, he said: "I would say that may depend on how I look in the at-bats I get the rest of the way.''

Red Sox manager Tery Francona, when asked Saturday about the possibility of placing Lowell on the DL, said that type of decision isn't in his mindset at this point.

"I guess it's not as bad as it could have been," Francona said.

Watching Lowell writhing in pain after fouling a ball off his left knee here Friday, it felt like piling on.

Lowell has a surgically repaired right hip that one day could conceivably require replacement surgery. He underwent a just-before-New-Year's operation for torn ligaments in his right thumb. In 2008, he went on the DL twice, once with a badly sprained left thumb, the second time with a strained oblique muscle. Lowell also beat testicular cancer early in his career.

While he said he believes the thumb is not an issue, he told reporters this week that he was disappointed that his recovery from the 2008 hip surgery has not advanced as far as he said he was led to believe it would by doctors.

Lowell's fate this season has been uncertain ever since the Sox elected to trade him to Texas last December, a deal that was voided. That, however, didn't keep the Sox from signing another third baseman, free agent Adrian Beltre.

There was speculation that the Red Sox would revisit trade talks for Lowell, but while at least two teams -- the Marlins and Rangers -- sent scouts to look at him, they both have backed off, and it was becoming increasingly clear there was no market for him, which was confirmed by one team source Friday.

While it would seem the Sox would be better served to have a more athletic, versatile option on the bench than Lowell, the team prefers to open the season with Lowell on the roster rather than releasing him and eating his entire $12 million salary, according to a source. It was also not under consideration to have him start the season on the DL, the source said, although that may change depending on the condition of his knee.

Lowell was gone before the end of Friday's 3-2 win over the Blue Jays. But just as the game was ending, the Sox announced they had acquired utility infielder Kevin Frandsen from the Giants for cash or a player to be named later.

Frandsen can play short, Francona said, thus meeting a need the Sox had with Jed Lowrie out with mononucleosis. His best position is probably second, but he also can play third.

In 2008, when Omar Vizquel was recovering from arthroscopic surgery, the Giants tried Frandsen at short in spring training, but abandoned that experiment. Last season, playing mostly in Triple-A Fresno, Frandsen played 60 games at short and made 15 errors, but put up good numbers offensively, batting .295 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs.

Frandsen has appeared in 174 big-league games over four seasons with the Giants, including 32 at short. He has a .240 career batting average, but hit just .140 in 23 games with the Giants last season, split among four separate stints with the club.

"He's a 40-man roster, utility infielder type with an option. I don't know exactly when he'll get here ... but I think it's a good idea. I think he gives us some depth. You don't know if you need it, but you don't want to find out the hard way,'' said Francona.

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.