Lowe brings confidence of 2010 finish into spring training debut

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Nobody had to see the two scoreless innings Derek Lowe threw Monday to know that he returns to the mound with the same confidence he had last September.

It was what he didn’t do in a 13-3 win over the Astros in his first outing of spring training that gave it away.

Lowe didn’t throw a single breaking ball to the Astros, the pitch he says made the biggest difference in his turnaround late last season, when he went 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in September.

On the suggestion of his trainer, Lowe decided to table his breaking ball for the first two weeks of camp, to help his stamina in the long run as he approaches his 37th birthday in June. But now he knows the breaking pitch will still be there.

“You feel like as long as you didn’t make any changes, you should be able to pick up where you left off,” Lowe said. “That in and of itself gives you confidence because you know you just did it four months ago.”

Lowe said he threw some breaking pitches as he started to build up his arm strength in the offseason but when he arrived at Braves camp, he stopped, knowing he’d be throwing live batting practice every other day.

On Monday, he threw strictly fastballs – both two and four-seam – and his change-up in the 27 pitches he threw, including 16 for strikes. He gave up back-to-back singles to start the game but retired the next five hitters, including three on groundballs.

“The sinker was working,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “The secondary pitches, they’ll come.”

In his next two starts, Lowe plans to mix in a few cut-fastballs and his curveball, but he won’t use his full repertoire until his last two outings of spring. Unlike past years when Lowe was eager to refine all his pitches from the start of spring, he’s taking it slow.

“You don’t need to be torquing your arm this early, throwing your breaking stuff,” Lowe said. “I’ve always gone into camp evaluating your outings by how the results were; this year I have more of a plan for spring training.”

This time last year he was desperate to see results from a host of adjustments he’d made over the winter. He’d won 15 games in 2009 but lost 10, with a career-high ERA of 4.67. He was constantly watching video and changing his mechanics.

This past offseason at home in Fort Myers, Fla. Lowe said he watched video a grand total of once, “to make sure we were doing the same thing and we were.”

Lowe missed the first start of his 14-year career early last September with elbow inflammation from a bone chip, but he said his elbow is fine now. He said this change wasn’t geared toward a specific injury but the long haul.

“I don’t see myself just trying to play out these next two years and retiring to the golf course,” Lowe said. “I plan on playing for a long time. As you go, you have to be smarter.”

The majority of the first two years of his four-year $60 million contract with the Braves has been marred by inconsistency and trade talk. But last September, Lowe locked into form. After skipping that start, he won his last five starts of the season to win NL pitcher of the month. He allowed only four earned runs in 30 2/3 innings, struck out 29 and walked only three.

Just weeks after some wondered if he’d even make a three-man rotation in the postseason, Lowe became the ace. He started Game 1 in the Division Series against the Giants. He lost both of his starts in the series but allowed only three earned runs in 11 2/3 innings total, giving the Braves a chance to win each time.

The difference, he said, was one pitch.

“My breaking ball was everything,” Lowe said. “…It was sharper; it was more consistent. I was able to throw it to both sides of the plate, which you should be able to do at this level, but I was so inconsistent with it.”

Lowe was the Braves’ Opening Day starter each of the last two years. There’s a chance he could again this year. But it’s how he ended last year that has made all the difference to him. He got to pitch in the postseason and get back to being the kind of pitcher he expects.

“You feel better coming in the clubhouse,” Lowe said. “After a while (last year) you probably think, ‘We’ve got two more years of this stuff? Holy smokes,’ instead of saying now he’s back to where he should be.”

35 comments Add your comment

Braves Fan

February 28th, 2011
5:48 pm

First!! First time ever!!

Braves Fan

February 28th, 2011
5:49 pm

Good article. For all you nah-sayers about trade Lowe, he will be pivotal to the Braves season this year.

1eyedJack

February 28th, 2011
5:53 pm

Bobby Gonzalez

February 28th, 2011
5:53 pm

Tornado Joe

February 28th, 2011
5:55 pm

How many years are left on Derrick Lowe’s contract?

Frank's Wren

February 28th, 2011
6:02 pm

Two years and $30MM, I believe.

Billmelater

February 28th, 2011
6:02 pm

Nate looked good…Thats Greaaaat! Hope he gets it back together for team and fans .

Frank's Wren

February 28th, 2011
6:04 pm

It’s an odd coincidence that tornadoes appear in the Atlanta area on the same day that Nate has a good day at the plate.

Dawgdad (The Original)

February 28th, 2011
6:13 pm

D. Lowe is a professional pitcher, he always give 110% even when he is struggling with his stuff. His large contract is a noose around his neck, in that people expect someone making that much money to be awesome. He didn’t use a gun to get the Braves to give him the contract, so people need to get off his back.

#1 BRAVES FAN

February 28th, 2011
6:25 pm

The Braves Are Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO BRAVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Frank's Wren

February 28th, 2011
6:26 pm

When Lowe’s on, he’s awesome to watch. Sure, he won’t strike out a lot of batters, but it’s great to watch his sinker in action.

Brave New World

February 28th, 2011
7:35 pm

Derek Lowe is a winner. ‘Nuff said.

big o

February 28th, 2011
7:53 pm

If D. Lowe is pitching like he did in Sept and Hudson is Hudson and JJ bounces back not to mention Hansen I like our staff against anyone including the Phils !!! thats right I said it. Lets concede nothing to them Braves Fans. The Giants showed us that. I like this team !!!

yogi2

February 28th, 2011
9:58 pm

Keep your eyes on Wilkin Ramirez. I think he is ready to make this team.
Great minor league aquisition. Plenty of upside potential. Looks real good.

sreve nj

February 28th, 2011
10:28 pm

if the braves stay healthy we should be in for a payoff type year. The bench should be stronger than last year… great minor league system…the future looks solid…GO BRAVES

Boatdoc

February 28th, 2011
10:30 pm

D-Lowe has always been a better “money” pitcher than regular season success story. In 2004 – the year of the Red Sox miraculous World Series Championship – he was 14-12 during the regular season with an ERA of 5.42 (holy Kawakami!) Then, in “must-win” situations of that post-season, Mr. Lowe went 3-0, including 2 playoff wins and one in the World Series (as the Sox swept the Pujols-led Cards) with an ERA of 2.92. He didn’t give up a single run in his WS win.

Last year, as the Braves went from leading the Phils in the East to stumbling toward the Wild Card, D-Lowe defined clutch.

I’d love the Braves’ starters to match the ‘71 Orioles with four 20 game winners. But with a choice, I’d much rather D-Lowe go 12-12 in the regular season, then turn it up again as the cooler, crisp breezes of Autumn blow across the Ted. If he is light’s out from opening day – that is just gravy, IMHO.

Del

February 28th, 2011
10:31 pm

Yogi 2— Been out of touch last two days. Who is Wilken Ramirez? Tks

Remarkable

February 28th, 2011
11:58 pm

Lowe, Start for two more years and then do the smart thing and close for the next two.

MariettaDerek

March 1st, 2011
1:09 am

Lowe is soooo gonna get DOUBLE PITS TO CHESTY with it this year!

yogi2

March 1st, 2011
8:06 am

W. Ramirez came from the the Tigers organization. Minor league triple A. Put up some good numbers and has speed. Looks good

ramblingman

March 1st, 2011
8:14 am

I wonder if derek has noticed that no one is picking up on his lame attempt to revive a phrase that never caught on and died a well-deserved death years ago, despite his dredging it up every night. My guess would be no, he thinks he is relevant. I expect posts soon from him using Dy-no-MITE and hey HEY hey, followed soon thereafter by “up your nose with a rubber hose”.

stamper

March 1st, 2011
8:22 am

bvillebaron

March 1st, 2011
8:58 am

Ramblingman:

And I guess you think you are relevant too, huh?

Matt the Brave

March 1st, 2011
9:17 am

I was just thinking, how many pitches does Lowe have? 2 fastballs, cutter, slider, curveball, changeup. He might as well learn a knuckler for kicks!

ramblingman

March 1st, 2011
9:27 am

bvillebaron – I’m not striving to be relevant. I am coming here as a Braves fan, to a Braves blog, to express feelings and opinions on the Atlanta Braves. I am not here on an agenda to make popular a phrase that never enjoyed popularity before its timely demise.

I did not think your post deserved a response, but did so out of politeness.

Trainwreck

March 1st, 2011
9:56 am

glad he has his confidence… they say 90% of the game is half mental

Matt

March 1st, 2011
10:15 am

If Lowe Wins 15 or more games the next 2 seasons I would offer him a 2 year contract for $20M. If he wins more or a WS i say 3 year 30M. Lowe has done his part in Atlanta.

Matt

March 1st, 2011
10:17 am

Also hopefully next time we try and sign Lowe we wont have to bring Alan Jackson to the ballpark to do so lol.

ramblingman

March 1st, 2011
10:36 am

“glad he has his confidence… they say 90% of the game is half mental”

Good quote. They also say “nobody goes to that place no more…it’s too crowded”

Johnny Bravo

March 1st, 2011
10:48 am

Trade Lowe & his $30 million salary (2 years) to the Yankees for a top thirdbase prospect; use the money to beef up the offense.

Johnny Bravo

March 1st, 2011
10:50 am

Lowe will revert back to his 2009 form & you Kool-Aid drinkers will want him gone by Memorial Day.

Mark it down.

ramblingman

March 1st, 2011
11:54 am

okay Johnny Bravo, it’s marked down.

Of course, since I have never clamored for him to be gone, your chances of this coming true are slim and none. But don’t let that stop you from exaggerating in order to make your stance appear stronger. I will continue to rely on facts.

Jim in Marietta

March 1st, 2011
1:04 pm

I agree with Johnny Bravo.

Unload Lowe and his remaining contract. At age 38 he’s unlikely to replicate the 2nd half of last season. Trade him at peak value to a team that could afford him & needs starting pitching, & a farm system full of quality prospects.

ramblingman

March 1st, 2011
1:16 pm

If they were going to trade someone, and that is a huge if that truly doesn’t make sense right now, it would make more sense to trade JJ than Lowe. They would get a superior haul for him, especially after he pitches some ST games and shows he is fully recovered. Plus, they would have teams salivating over him, lining up to give up prospects. Finally, there is the Boras factor.

Note – I am NOT advocating trading JJ. I just see it making more sense than Lowe. I personally thnk they are doing the right thing by keeping both and letting the youngsters get more seasoning.

clv

March 1st, 2011
1:17 pm

Anybody find the feed online anywhere other than mlb.com?

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