Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Three pitches into his second spring start, Braves pitcher Derek Lowe sprung a leak.
In a large blister.
On the inside of his right big toe.
This is not good.
“I felt it pop,” Lowe said. And after that, “Instead of worrying about pitching I was worried about how not to drag my back toe.”
Now, the Braves and their announced opening-day starter are worried about whether he’ll be ready to make his next scheduled turn, and about how far he might fall behind if he can’t.
(And we wonder sometimes why Cox usually waits until late in spring training to announce his opening-day starter.)
The blistered toe was painful, and the distraction painfully obvious: After striking out the first batter, Lowe gave up five hits to the next six Mets, including a two-run homer by Chris Carter.
He lasted one inning and allowed five hits and three runs. Lowe then removed his cleat and sock to check the damage after the inning, and pitching coach Roger McDowell took one look at the larger-than-a-quarter blister and said, no mas.
“There really was no point of trying to manipulate how you’re going to throw the ball so you don’t drag your back toe,” said Lowe, who didn’t disagree with the coach’s assessment.
“So Roger said, ‘We’re done. We’re not going to get anything out of this.’ As you saw, I didn’t get anything out of it — [except] helped some kids out along the way.”
The “kids” he referred to were sprinkled in a patchwork Mets lineup — some young, some just obscure, some both.
Lowe, the Braves’ planned opening-day starter, hopes to make his next rotation turn but won’t know before he throws his between-starts bullpen session Friday.
“Time will tell,” said the veteran right-hander, who pitched two perfect innings in his spring debut Friday. “If you can’t push off your back foot, you’re really not doing anybody any good by going out there trying to manipulate the way you throw so your toe doesn’t hurt.”
To Lowe’s credit, he blamed only himself for not having the toe wrapped when he pitched Wednesday. He said he’s taped the problematic spot since having blisters early in his career, but stopped doing so after throwing without it wrapped in the offseason. He pushed his luck too much.
“My whole career I always had to wrap it, because I’d drag my toe and it does this,” he said, pointing to the blistered area. “I’ve had no problem with it all offseason, [spring] bullpens, the last game, nothing. Then after the third pitch — we’ve got issues.”
Manager Bobby called it “about the nastiest blister I’ve ever seen.”
One minute Cox seemed sure Lowe would make his next start if trainers tape the toe and apply something to toughen the skin. But the next minute the manager said, “We just hope that he can tape it up and not rub it raw.”
Cox said a pitcher could afford to miss one spring start and still be on schedule, but wouldn’t want to miss more than that. He didn’t say whether he considered Wednesday a missed start for Lowe.
“Thank God it’s not his arm,” Cox added.
After Carter’s home run, Russ Adams lined a single up the middle that might have taken off Lowe’s head if he’d ducked a split-second later.
“Instead of worrying about pitching I was worried about how not to drag my back toe,” he said. “I just about took one off the melon there; that would have been real fun. So it was a wasted day, it really was.”
He had some problems with finger blisters during the 2009 season, when Lowe had 15 wins but posted a 4.67 ERA and .301 opponents’ average.