Lowrie discusses personal journey to division champion
Jed Lowrie has eclipsed 100 games played in a season for the first time in his six-year career. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SEATTLE -- Of all the impressive numbers next to Jed Lowrie’s name, the most revealing one is 152.
That’s the number of games he’s played this season for the Oakland A’s, and it might come as a shock to anyone who has followed the shortstop’s injury-plagued career.
The A’s knew they were getting a versatile infielder with solid offensive credentials when they acquired Lowrie from the Houston Astros in February. They couldn’t have known they landed their eventual starting shortstop, one who would entrench himself as their No. 3 hitter and be a model of durability.
Lowrie, 29, sounds grateful, relieved – perhaps even a bit surprised himself – that he’s played in all but seven of the A’s games in 2013. Before this year, he hadn’t appeared in more than 97 in any of his five major league seasons.
“I think that cloud has kind of followed me around,” Lowrie said of his injury-prone reputation. “It’s been injuries that I had zero control of. It’s nice to get that full season worth of at-bats and show what I’m capable of.”
The list of ailments that sidetracked the former Stanford star is lengthy.
He played through pain much of his 2008 rookie season with Boston, only to discover after the season he had a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist. Problems with the wrist sidelined him a total of four months the next year as he required surgery to repair a ligament.
In 2010, Lowrie missed the first 94 games after contracting mononucleosis. The following season, a collision with teammate Carl Crawford resulted in a strained left shoulder that kept him out for nearly two months.
Last year, having been traded to Houston, Lowrie missed the season’s first few games with a sprained right thumb. Then in July, when he was leading the Astros in home runs, he suffered a sprained right ankle and missed 52 games when the Giants’ Gregor Blanco spiked him on a slide.
A’s outfielder Brandon Moss was a Boston teammate of Lowrie’s in 2008, and he followed the run of misfortune that dogged Lowrie’s career.
“People call him injury-prone, but that’s not true because it’s not wear and tear, it’s not nagging injuries,” Moss said. “It’s stuff that happens that’s (usually) season-ending when it happens. It’s unfortunate when that happens and you get labeled. There are guys who won’t play through nagging injuries, guys who won’t play every day because they don’t feel good. And he’s not one of those guys.”
The A’s sent first baseman Chris Carter, right-handed pitcher Brad Peacock and catching prospect Max Stassi to the Astros in February in exchange for Lowrie and reliever Fernando Rodriguez. They had recently signed Japanese free agent Hiroyuki Nakajima, who was penciled in to start at shortstop.
But Nakajima had a poor spring and then hurt his hamstring. Lowrie, who bounced around the infield during Cactus League games, settled in at shortstop and eventually found a home as Oakland’s No. 3 hitter.
He’s batting .288 with 15 homers and 75 RBI, and his 44 doubles rank second in the American League. With three games left, he’s just three doubles shy of Jason Giambi’s single-season Oakland record.
Lowrie’s 18 errors are second-most among all American League defensive players, but he’s helped off-set that with his bat. You have to go back to Miguel Tejada’s 2003 season to find an A’s shortstop with better across-the-board offensive numbers.
“I think he was kind of on a mission this year to prove that he could give you a full season and play every day, which he has,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s been a very consistent performer.”
Lowrie is a well-rounded sort with interests beyond the baseball diamond. He developed a passion for photography when he was sidelined by mono and has his own online gallery.
And if you think Lowrie’s baseball career ranks as the coolest job in his family, understand that his wife, Milessa, is a former diplomat with the U.S. State Department. She recently spent a stint working at the American embassy in Mexico City as a human rights officer, filing reports and sending them back to Congress.
Milessa is expecting the couple’s first child, a girl, in December, but Lowrie suspects she’ll want to resume her career in some form after giving birth.
“She’s very smart, very driven,” Lowrie said.
With the A’s preparing for the postseason, Lowrie’s own playoff experience with Boston should prove useful. In 2008, he became just the fourth rookie to end a postseason series with a walk-off hit when his game-winning single beat the Los Angeles Angels.
“I think less is more,” Lowrie said. “The adrenaline is going to be so high, you might try to do more than you’re capable of. But I think that’s what this team has done so well. We haven’t gotten out of who we are individually.”