- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- The one thing we can say with any certainty about Jed Lowrie's damaged left shoulder is that manager Terry Francona's optimism was misplaced when he declared, "This is nothing," the day after Lowrie collided with outfielder Carl Crawford in Detroit back in late May.
It is three months later, and Lowrie is still hurting. That's a pattern depressingly familiar for the shortstop who had worked so hard to put his foundering career back on track after losing the better part of two seasons to a wrist injury that turned out to be much worse than originally presented and a large chunk of 2010 to a crippling case of mononucleosis.
Now it is late August, and even after six weeks on the disabled list with an injury that was first described as a bruise, then as a strain and, finally, after a consultation with Dr. Lewis Yocum, some nerve damage as well, Lowrie is clearly still showing the effects.
The infielder whose early-season contributions played a big part in pulling the Red Sox out of their April funk -- he was shredding left-handed pitching and driving the ball with authority -- has not been the same hitter since the collision, nor since he came off the DL.
On Friday night in Fenway Park, Lowrie returned with a modest hitting streak fashioned in Kansas City and Texas -- seven games in which he batted .370 (10 for 27) -- and endured one of his toughest nights in the big leagues, striking out a career-high four times while going 0-for-5 and leaving six runners on base in a 15-5 loss to Oakland. He also made an error.
After such a game, many players steer as far away, for as long as they can, from their locker, if they make an appearance at all. Lowrie could be found right after the game Friday night sitting at his, texting on his cellphone.
"I feel like I've been getting some hits,'' he said when asked to describe the difference in his performance since coming off the DL on Aug. 8. "I don't feel like I'm driving the ball like I was in the beginning of the year. I'm pretty sure that has to do with my shoulder.
"I feel like my bats have been OK. I'm not chasing pitches out of the zone. I'm not overanxious. I'm getting my hits, [but] they're singles. When I do drive the ball, guys are running them down.''
Lowrie was hitting .306 at the time he was hurt and slugging .452, with 10 doubles, a couple of triples and three home runs. Since the collision, he is batting .194 (19 for 98) in 26 games, with two doubles, a triple and a home run. The home run came Aug. 12 in Seattle, the double last week in Kansas City. He is batting .237 (14 for 59) since coming off the DL.
When Lowrie was asked what he is being told about the shoulder now, there were several pauses, as he appeared to choose his words with care.
"They haven't told me anything,'' he said, a response that appeared to echo some of the frustration he had felt during his long ordeal with his wrist. "I haven't gotten a whole lot of information. Just strap it on.''
He was asked whether he planned to search for some answers on his own after the season.
"I really -- I don't know,'' he said. "I know it still bothers me, but I've just got to find a way to get it done, man. I'll worry about that in the offseason.''
Lowrie's error was his team-high 15th of the season, coming in just 71 games. Ten of his errors have come at shortstop, his natural position. Friday night's was his fifth at third base, where he has been filling in for the injured Kevin Youkilis (back). He also has made appearances at first and second base.
Last season, in 59 games, Lowrie made just five errors, and his defense has never sent up red flags.
"It's not easy playing [multiple] positions,'' he said. "It's not easy. [But] I'm more worried about making the plays than not making them.''
Even after going hitless in four at-bats against lefties Friday night, Lowrie is batting .347 against left-handers, second only to Dustin Pedroia's .394 on the Sox. He remains a potentially valuable piece, especially looking toward October.
But the ice pack on the shoulder and the continuing discomfort he is experiencing underscore the snakebit nature of his career.
"I'm not going to waste my time thinking about that,'' he said, "because I would drive myself crazy. I'm just going to worry about what I can do to get better.''
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
Set back by another injury, Jed Lowrie searches for answers.