Now healthy, Lowrie makes impact on Astros
After battling injuries for four years in Boston, SS puts up strong numbers in Houston
HOUSTON -- Jed Lowrie knew that if he could find a way to stay healthy, find a way to avoid the kind of inexplicable injuries that kept him from staying on the field full-time in his four years with the Boston Red Sox, that he could be a productive everyday player.
The Astros saw the potential in Lowrie, as well, which is why one of the first moves Jeff Luhnow made upon taking the job as general manager last December was to pull off a trade to acquire Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland from Boston in exchange for reliever Mark Melancon.
Lowrie, who began the season on the disabled list with a sprained right thumb, has been nothing short of spectacular for the Astros and has put himself into consideration to be chosen as a reserve for the National League in next month's All-Star Game.
"There's no question in my mind Jed Lowrie is an All-Star and should be on the All-Star team for the National League," Luhnow said.
Lowrie isn't among the leaders at his position in All-Star voting -- fans have until 10:59 p.m. CT on Thursday to vote for the starters -- but he'll get some serious consideration when you consider Astros bench coach Joe Pettini is the bench coach for the NL next month in Kansas City. He has already said he'll make a pitch to NL manager Tony La Russa to take some Houston players, and Lowrie is certainly deserving.
For now, Lowrie is just glad his GM thinks so highly of him.
"It's nice to hear he has confidence in me, and all I can do is go out there and play the game the way I know how and let that other stuff work itself out," Lowrie said. "I would love to go to the All-Star Game; that would be a great honor. I'm more focused on what I can to do help this team win on a day-to-day basis."
Luhnow may be biased, but it's a stance borne out by Lowrie's numbers. Lowrie leads the team and leads all Major League shortstops with 14 home runs, which is tied for the second-highest total by an Astros shortstop in team history. Through 66 games he was batting .270 with 33 RBIs. Unless he gets hurt, he appears to be a shoo-in to break the single-season club record for homers by a shortstop (Dickie Thon hit 20 in 1983).
"I feel really good about the way I've played up to this point," Lowrie said. "I've been happy with my approach. I feel like I'm getting on the baseball and driving the ball well. I haven't gotten any multihit games lately. I feel like I've been getting one hit a game and getting on base a couple of times but overall I'm really happy with the way I'm playing."
Lowrie has spent time on the disabled list in each of the last four seasons, including this year, when he injured his thumb in Spring Training. He hurt his shoulder last year in a collision with Red Sox teammate Carl Crawford and missed time in 2010 with mononucleosis.
"I always figured that if Jed Lowrie had a full season he would put up numbers that would be worthy of being a top-five shortstop in the league, and I also felt like defensively, he was capable of playing every day and being a solid defender," Luhnow said. "One of the things I looked at was each injury he had wasn't something that was likely to reoccur. They were based off an incident that may not happen again."
Lowrie, a switch-hitter, came to Houston with much better numbers as a right-handed hitter than he had as a left-handed hitter, but this year, he's hitting .207 as a right-hander and .285 as a left-hander. All but two of his 14 home runs have come from the left side of the plate.
The impressive power numbers from the slight-of-build Lowrie aren't surprising to him, but his power production has increased dramatically. He had 19 homers in 758 at-bats with the Red Sox, averaging one homer every 39.9 at-bats. This year, he's averaging a homer every 17.2 at-bats.
"I've always had some power, but I've dealt with some injuries that have sort of held me back," he said. "The bottom line is I feel like I'm healthy and balls that were doubles or outs last year and are going out. I hit 16 home runs as a sophomore in college [at Stanford] and have shown some power in the Minor Leagues as well.
"I've always been told and been taught that the home runs come as you get older, as you mature. You learn how to be a good hitter and then power comes. That's what I've always focused on, just learning how to square up balls and as you get stronger they start to go out."
The only thing that would make this better for Lowrie would be if the Astros were closer to the top of the NL Central. Lowrie came from Boston, where he competed for a Red Sox team that made the playoffs in 2008 and '09.
"I think that's the caveat," he said. "Obviously, winning in my eyes is always the most important thing, but to have an opportunity to go out and perform well is nice. So far I feel like I've taken advantage of it and I just want to continue to stick with the approach and everything I've been doing to stay on the field and play a full season and see where my numbers are at that point."