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Just like they had to do last season, the Red Sox must find a way to replace Mike Lowell. He was placed on the 15-day DL, but his stay should not be too long. After missing the entire 2008 postseason, Mike Lowell had off-season hip surgery, and it seemed like Lowell had recovered just fine. The 35-year-old has played in 66 of Boston’s 77 games thus far, hitting .282 with 10 homers and 41 RBI. Plus, Lowell is playing his usual above average defense.
With Lowell’s age and recent injuries, it may be time to think about a replacement for this season and beyond. Tuesday, ESPN’s Peter Gammons said that the Red Sox need to find another bat, mentioning both Garrett Atkins and Nick Johnson as potential replacements. Does Mike Lowell need a replacement? Can a 35-year-old third baseman keep recovering from these injuries? These are the questions that Red Sox GM Theo Epstein must answer.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona doesn’t seem too worried.
“Sure, it could reoccur,” Francona said of Lowell’s injury. “The guy had surgery. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. There’s nothing structurally that went wrong or crept up.”
The replacement could come from within and actually may wind up being the same player that replaced Lowell last season: Mark Kotsay. Regular first baseman Kevin Youkilis would slide over to Lowell’s sport at third, and Kotsay could play first. Kotsay is hitting .289 and has the exact same OBP as Mike Lowell (.319). He’s also hit 1 homer and has 2 RBI. Kotsay was pretty good at first last season and has played pretty well when put at first this season. Jeff Bailey is back up from Pawtucket (to take Lowell’s spot) and has been playing first base as well. He’s hitting just .219 though with 3 homers in 73 at bats.
I’m not sure that Johnson’s defense is as bad as many critics think, and he definitely has the bat. His OBP is .406 and he is batting .295 with 5 homers and 33 RBI. This might be a solid move as long as the Red Sox don’t have to give up one of their prized pitching prospects.
Gammons thinks that the Red Sox could send a reliever over to Colorado and acquire Atkins. With so many relievers having career years in the Red Sox bullpen, they could afford to make this move. Atkins is hitting just .227 with 6 homers and 25 RBI, but he is still just 29 years old and has a career average of .292 and a career OBP of .355. Atkins is also a 3rd basemen, meaning Youkilis could stay at 1st base, a position that he has become a gold golver playing.
The Globe’s Adam Kilgore reported that Lowell is feeling good and is eligible to return from the DL on July 12. He could come back after the All-Star break and have that much more rest. If that does the trick, then giving up any high-level prospect to replace him wouldn’t make sense. Unless the Red Sox can send over a mid level or lower prospect for one of these players, it’s probably in their best interested to take a wait and see approach and see how Lowell performs upon his return.