MESA, Ariz. (AP) – The words of the people who doubted him still linger somewhere in Jed Lowrie’s head.
The Oakland A’s second baseman acknowledges that the idea that he couldn’t handle the everyday grind of a baseball season because of his size still bothers him.
“A lot of scouts questioned if I’d be big enough to compete because the baseball season is long and grueling,” he said before Oakland took on the Diamondbacks on Tuesday in a Cactus League game. “It has always played in my subconscious and I’ve played through injuries so that I can be on the field. It has worked for the good and bad.”
At 6 feet, 180 pounds, Lowrie isn’t diminutive but staying on the field has been an issue for him.
He’s only played 100-plus games twice – in 2013 and 2014 with the A’s – in his nine-year career after being sidelined with several injuries, including a surgery on his left foot in August that cost him the remainder of the 2016 season.
This year, the 32-year-old came into spring training free of any injuries and sleeping better than ever after having surgery for a deviated septum, with the hopes of stepping on the field for the A’s as much as possible.
“Spring is off to a good start,” he said. “I feel good and that’s the most important thing. Results aren’t always important in spring training. It’s about getting back into the swing of things.”
Oakland manager Bob Melvin has noticed a difference in Lowrie, who entered Tuesday’s game hitting .286 in seven at bats this spring.
“He looks like he is in better shape, lost some weight and he is working on mobility stuff and running,” Melvin said. “He’s come into camp with the idea that this is going to be big year for him. I appreciate that. He worked hard in the offseason to get to the point where he is right now.”
Lowrie, a career .258 hitter with 67 home runs and 341 RBIs in 799 career games, is determined to put in a full season. His goals are simply to be healthy and ready to play every day.
“I have a hard time missing games,” he said. “I’m a competitor. I’ve played through a lot of injuries to my detriment because of that mentality, but at the same time that mentality is probably one of the reasons I am here. You want to take care of the injuries and get back out there.”
His double play partner, Marcus Semien, has grown to appreciate having a veteran to his left when they take the field.
“Jed is a smart player and I’ve learned a lot from him the last few years,” Semien said. “We’ve spent a lot of time together talking about the game. He’s played shortstop. He’s been in the playoffs. He’s done some of the things I want to do.”
The key at this point is doing it more often for Lowrie, who played through a broken wrist (2008), been wiped out by mononucleosis (2010) and tore a ligament in his thumb (2015).
“That’s the great thing about baseball, every year you get a fresh start and all I really care about is feeling good,” he said. “I’ve always believed, good years or bad, it is about being strong and healthy for me and the number will be there at the end.”
The hope is he can turn in a season similar to 2013 during his first stint with the A’s when he hit .290 with 80 runs, 45 doubles, 15 home runs and 75 RBIs.
“I’ve always had the inner drive to be out there as much as possible,” Lowrie said. “I’ve had some injuries I probably shouldn’t have played through, but I get this mentality where I can convince myself I can play. That’s all I want to do. Be ready to play every day.”
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