Spring training is happy time, and Lowe is no exception

Derek Lowe looks relaxed and happy, and it's not an act. (Phil Skinner/AJC.)

Derek Lowe is happy and moving forward. (Phil Skinner/AJC.)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — I love spring training. It’s better than the training camps in other sports because the regular season is so long, and when things go bad a team still has to suffer through prolonged misery and play out 162-game season until it gets a chance to be optimistic again — in February.

Spring training is like big cleansing breath for teams — and some players.

I didn’t plan for my first stop this morning to be Derek Lowe’s locker, it just sort of turned out that way. Lowe didn’t quite “suffer” last season. He did win 15 games. In fact, when it was brought to his attention that only 22 starters won 15 games last season, he exclaimed: “That makes me feel better. I’m a bad ass!”

But the last two months of the season (3-3, 6.65 ERA, .413 opponents on-base percentage in his last nine starts), combined with the second-worst opponents batting average among starers in the majors (.301), combined with the Braves’ failed attempts to trade him, combined with the trading of Javier Vasquez, combined with Lowe’s salary — well, you get the idea. There was some misery.

But Lowe is not miserable now. If he is, he’s doing a great job hiding it. In fact, when I asked him if he planned to use criticism from last season as a motivation, he laughed and said:  “Once you’ve played in Boston for eight years, it’s no big deal. I’ve been criticized w0rse than this. What’s anybody going to say that I haven’t already heard?”

Lowe is a good guy. He admits he was bothered when the team was looking to deal him, and that nobody in the front office warned him of possible trade talks. But he said, “It really wasn’t a matter of  me having to get over something. It had everything to do with me wanting to stay here. I put myself in this situation because of the last two months and we had a surplus of pitchers. I understand that. But I didn’t come into camp with anything negative, and I wasn’t mad at anybody.

“The whole thing has just spiraled out of control, like I was going to be a cancer and I had to be traded . It was just a unique situation. If you look at the last four or five years, statistically I had one of my worst seasons and Javy had his best.  So I could see why people would say, ‘Yeah, it’s a no-brainer. Trade him.’ But I’m fine.”

That’s good. Because questions about the Braves’ lineup, a strong season by Lowe helps turn this pitching rotation into one that can get the team to the postseason again. Think about it. Lowe is the No. 4 starter. You can put Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens in any order one through three. Kenshin Kawakami is No. 5. Lowe — whose $15 million salary exceeds the combined totals of Hudson, Hanson and Jurrjens (just over $10 million) — is No. 4. How strange is that?

OK, that’s it for now. I’ll check back later with a blog about utility player Eric Hinske and the massive tattoo on his back that was just finished this winter — you won’t believe it until you see the photo — and then a column later today on either Jason Heyward or Yunel Escobar. (One is team’s future. The other is the team’s best all-around player. Just haven’t decided which to write first.”

Finally, if you missed the earlier blog, I’m taking your questions to be asked to players and coaches. Click the previous blog here and post your questions, or send me a note on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC).

Thanks, Jeff

41 comments Add your comment

Give the man some credit

February 25th, 2010
11:29 am

Casey

February 25th, 2010
11:36 am

Good blog…..

Give the man some credit

February 25th, 2010
11:37 am

Jeff, could you ask Lowe if he has made friends with Glavine yet? I think he could really learn how to succeed in Atlanta by talking with him.

Smiling Jack

February 25th, 2010
11:37 am

Is there no glory in SECOND????????

Smiling Jack

February 25th, 2010
11:38 am

Oops..guess I wanted to claim glory to soon!

Smiling Jack

February 25th, 2010
11:39 am

Needs sosme good positive comments on here. I enjoy them most. Can barely stand the Bobby Cox negative naysayers. Braves are going to have a very good year.

nate

February 25th, 2010
11:42 am

first!! (to actually read the article)

Ted M

February 25th, 2010
11:43 am

I have a serious question for Wren.

If the Braves are still in the playoff race as the trade deadline approaches and another team wants Lowe (and his whole contract) will he trade him?

Traver

February 25th, 2010
11:44 am

Would he consider tracking down Claudell Washington or Rufino Linares? I bet they hav more punch in their 50’s than Melky at 25. Randy Johnson – the lack luster utility infielder not the recently reitred Hall of Famer is looking pretty good right now too.

Traver

February 25th, 2010
11:46 am

Serious question – Would he seriously consider giving Smoltz a shot if there was a need for pitching depth at some point this season?

Ted M

February 25th, 2010
11:46 am

I have a serious question for Wren.

If the Braves are still in the playoff race as the trade deadline approaches and another team wants Lowe because he’s pitching well (and his whole contract) will he trade him?

MrATL

February 25th, 2010
11:52 am

I agree with Smiling Jack, to many pessimists on here. The Braves have a lot going for them this year. Every team has their IF’S. Lowe has been very consistent throughout his career. He will get us at least 15 wins.

Give the man some credit

February 25th, 2010
11:53 am

Nate:

It took you 22 minutes to be the first person to actually read the article??

GetwhatUpayfor

February 25th, 2010
11:59 am

Good job Jeff…did you say it was cold? 24 this morning in big A. Hate the tattoo crap but to each his own. Seem like rich people like to paint themself with a Tatto. But if they can hit, run,and play D its cool.

Bubbly

February 25th, 2010
12:03 pm

Derek will win 16 games this year and have an ERA around 3.90.

Brian

February 25th, 2010
12:07 pm

Good read. Do you know if Lowe has done anything to regain feel for his sinker. I know that is a hard thing to consistently have and he appeared to struggle with it down the stretch. Did he change mechanics, mental approach, grip, or just drop baseball a while this off season to regroup? Probably some of all of that, just wondered if he mentioned anything specific.

Give the man some credit

February 25th, 2010
12:08 pm

Bubbly……… Predictions are irrelevant. If you are, in fact, correct with your prediction I will give credit where credit is due (hence the name). But I can just as easily say the Derek Lowe will win 14 games with and ERA around 4.55 (and everyone here will ask for his head on their dinner platter), but 16 wins and around 3.90 people would be calling for consideration of a certain award named after a cyclone.

T

February 25th, 2010
12:15 pm

Ask Lowe if McDonald’s is sponsoring that arch on top of his head.

Alaska Braves Fan

February 25th, 2010
12:16 pm

GetwhatUpayfor: It’s sort of an odd thing, but professional athletes seldom can be called rich. Yes, often they have a great deal of money, but since they usually come from rather average or even below average circumstances, they really don’t know how to be “rich.” Only people with names like Rockefeller and Kennedy really KNOW how to be rich. (The “richest” are some whose names aren’t much known!)

I calculated that if I went to spring training earning at the rate ARod is receiving, and I managed to last 17 days, I would have earned more than twice what I actually will have earned in my entire lifetime. Do we love sports, or what?

ABF

Ted M

February 25th, 2010
12:19 pm

I believe you use the word “wealthy” to describe Rockefeller and Kennedy.

Voice of Reason

February 25th, 2010
12:21 pm

@ Brian;

Heard Lowe in an interview yesterday and he stated that his mechanics were a bit off last year when he was struggling. He and McDowell were aware of the problem and attempted to rework the mechanics between starts but 5 days (between starts) was not enough time to reincorporate the new muscle memory needed to resolve the problem.

Turnin2

February 25th, 2010
12:27 pm

DLowe is a class act – and probably headed for one of his best seasons ever!

jimmy

February 25th, 2010
12:48 pm

glad your in fla keep the reports coming

John OTC

February 25th, 2010
12:49 pm

Lowe should be our opening day starter!!! Go Lowe or go home!

sportsmandh

February 25th, 2010
12:51 pm

T, that post should go into the blog hall of fame.

Kentavo

February 25th, 2010
12:51 pm

If was a hitter, I just wouldn’t swing at D-Lowe’s pitches – they’re all out of the zone. He only gets ya’ if you swing and the bottom drops out of that sinker.

F-105 Thunderchief

February 25th, 2010
1:18 pm

I think Lowe probably bounces back. How about Glaus. Don ‘t know that we’ve heard much from him, though I’m sure you’ll get there. Thanks, Jeff.

Clay

February 25th, 2010
1:52 pm

Good stuff, Jeff. Keep it coming …..

Jeff

February 25th, 2010
2:01 pm

How many faces does this org have? Bobby, Chipper, Mac, Yunel, Heyward, The new kid they just signed, etc

dcfrom conyers

February 25th, 2010
3:59 pm

From what I have read DLowe is one of the hardest working Pitchers in the majors. I remember reading last year he would be leaving the stadium when other players were just getting there, having already done all of his work. I’m pulling for him and I have always thought he was a horse. He is right that he had one of his worst years and Javier had one of his best. I also felt like Javier worked his tail off for the Braves last year and wish him personally nothing but the best, not the Yankees though. They try to buy it every year.
Looking at the team I think they have a solid club. It will be a different kind of a season this year knowing that Bobby won’t be back next year. He is just a class act all the way around. He may not have won but one world Series but I’ll take him any day over most Managers. My only complaint is sometimes he is to predictable. To sold on the lefty righty thing sometimes. Hey but lets all pull together for the team and give them the support they need to compete at the highest level and send Bobby out on a Great Note. I want to say thanks to Him and nothing but the best for him and his family.

[...] ♦ Derek Lowe looking forward after rough year and trade talk. [...]

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2010
5:11 pm

Some of these comments have jumped way off the rails. I’ve deleted a few. I just don’t see the point of attacking a man as a father and husband because of his tattoo. I’ve closed commenting.

Eric Hinske Tattoo

February 26th, 2010
8:21 pm

[...] Spring Training Is Happy Time, And Lowe Is No Exception | Jeff SchultzI’ll check back later with a blog about utility player Eric Hinske and the massive tattoo… [...]

Eric Hinske Tattoo

February 26th, 2010
8:41 pm

[...] two off seasons to complete his large tattoo. Hinske works as a utility man at the Atlanta Braves'Eric Hinske Tattoo – Eric Hinske, a former NY Yankees baseball outfielder, had his entire back tattoed. Eric Hinske [...]

[...] ♦ Derek Lowe looking forward after rough year and trade talk. [...]

georgiadrew

February 27th, 2010
4:00 pm

read the other day that tom glavine was now a braves exec, is this true?

Jeff Schultz

February 27th, 2010
4:05 pm

Georgiadrew — “Exec” might be overstating it, but yes he’s back working in the organization. Became official about a week ago.

Mike30326

February 28th, 2010
8:54 am

I think the Braves will be fine this year. Their starting pitchers are phenomenal! Best in the league I think. If Glaus stays healthy, Schafer rebounds, and Heyward is half the hype…Braves go all the way.

Jude

February 28th, 2010
1:44 pm

I feel Frank Wren has put a good team together in this off season. This Braves fan is looking forward to a great season. Thanks Jeff for your good reporting.
Go Braves!

[...] if that told the whole story than the Braves’ never would have tried to trade Lowe and the remaining three years and $45 million on his contract. They couldn’t. So instead they were forced to deal their best pitcher a year [...]

[...] ♦ Derek Lowe looking forward after rough year and trade talk [...]