Lowe in unfamiliar position, competing for roster spot
All-Star pitcher has had a great deal of success as a starter and reliever in 16 seasons
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Derek Lowe has pitched in two All-Star Games and 26 playoff games, and he was the winning pitcher in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox crushed the Curse of the Bambino.
He has been a 21-game winner as a starter and led the league in saves as a reliever. He has done just about everything a pitcher can do in a 16-year career. Now he finds himself in an unfamiliar position with the Rangers: He has to make the team.
"I know where I stand -- you don't have a full Spring Training to ease into it," Lowe said on Friday morning. "But I figured that would be the case. I'm looking forward to it. I've got to win a job. This is the first time in 16 years that's the case. It's healthy. It's good to rekindle the flame and earn it."
Lowe was signed on Wednesday to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp. The Rangers went after him him three weeks into the start of Spring Training because of concerns about their pitching staff and bullpen depth.
Lowe knows that being a non-roster player often means an uphill climb to make a team. That's why he turned down many such offers in the offseason.
"It was a real interesting offseason," Lowe said. "We heard the same thing from every team: Be a non-roster invite and make the team. At this stage of my career, that's not something that's attractive. But a situation happened here, they had some injuries and at least I'll get an opportunity."
Lowe threw in the bullpen on Friday. He had thrown a couple of bullpen sessions back at his home in Fort Myers, Fla., before signing with the Rangers, but he mainly kept his arm in shape by throwing long-toss. He said he doesn't need that many bullpen sessions to prepare for game play as long as his arm is strong and in good shape.
So, he will throw two live BP sessions, and then he expects to go into a game.
"It's a crash course.... You can't impress them in the bullpen," Lowe said.
He has been a starter and a reliever in his career. Last season, he started for the Indians and came out of the bullpen for the Yankees, but he'll concentrate mainly on being a reliever right now. The Rangers see him in the bullpen but don't know what his role will be -- if he even makes the team.
"You just can't walk off the street and be on the team," manager Ron Washington said. "But because of his track record, he will be given an opportunity. When he has that sinker working, he can get ground balls, and he can get some outs."
Lowe opened last season in the Indians' rotation and was 7-3 with a 3.06 ERA after 11 starts. Then he went 1-7 with an 8.77 ERA in his next 10 starts as he lost some life on his sinker. The Indians released him at the beginning of August.
"The older you get, you've got to be honest, you're stuff is not as good," Lowe said. "So your margin of error gets smaller. I lost some deception in my delivery, the hitters started seeing the ball better and my stuff got flat. That combination doesn't work. I give Cleveland credit for staying with me as long as [they] did."
The Yankees, desperate themselves for bullpen help, signed him on Aug. 13. He threw four scoreless innings against the Rangers in his New York debut and ended up pitching well in relief. He had a 3.04 ERA while holding opponents to a .261 average. He pitched at least two innings in six of 17 outings. Those are all numbers the Rangers could find useful as they put together their bullpen at the end of Spring Training.
"There has been no discussion of any role," Lowe said. "I have no idea. I just need to go out and compete and in three weeks we'll know where I stand."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.