Derek Lowe goes from trade bait to opening day starter?

The first surprise of 2010: Derek Lowe will get the ball opening day April 5 against Chicago.

The first surprise of 2010: Derek Lowe will get the ball opening day April 5 against Chicago.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Derek Lowe is perceived by most as the fourth-best pitcher in the Braves’ starting rotation. He also is the only starter the team tried to trade this winter.

And what does he get for these two distinctions? A start on opening day. If Bobby Cox wanted to go out with a bang, this is a good way to start.

“He was our winningest pitcher [last year],” Cox explained. But 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 ago, Javier Vazquez, for Melky Cabrera and a prospect. But you probably heard about that.)

Here’s David O’Brien’s recap of Cox’s surprising announcement Sunday. The decision had some reason to it. But it’s also typical Cox: Show loyalty to the veteran and try to give him an early confidence boost. Fact is, if Lowe — who had a 6.65 ERA in his final six starts and allowed the second-highest opponents’ batting average in the majors – bounces back this season, it’s a significant boost to the rotation and the team.

Here are the tangible factors: 1) Jair Jurrjens, probably the most deserving opening day starter, has been slowed by a shoulder injury; 2) The team is being cautious with Tim Hudson, even though he came back late last season from Tommy John surgery; 3) Tommy Hanson, another deserving pitcher, is young and Cox probably doesn’t want to put him in that situation.

The rotation the first six games and seven days of the season will go like this: 1-Lowe; 2-off day; 3-Jurrjens; 4-Hanson; 5-Hudson; 6-Lowe; 7-Kenshin Kawakami.

Of pitching opening day, Cox said, “There’s an honor to it. There’s a lot of first-game jitters and excitement. You have to have the makeup to handle it. He can pitch in big games.”

It’s only one of 162 games. But give the backdrop, this was a surprising decision. How do you feel about it?

70 comments Add your comment

renegade#1

February 28th, 2010
5:12 pm

after trying to trade Lowe all winter; I think they are trying to smoothe over some ruffled feathers.

Striker

February 28th, 2010
5:12 pm

Cox should have retired at the end of last year. Lowe was by far our worst starter last year. Instead of tabbing him for opening day they should be making it known to him that he’s on thin ice and needs to step up quickly to avoid losing his spot to Medlen and being relegated to mop up duties. Such a demotion would signal the end of his career and he would know it.

But the biggest thing is that Lowe seems to feel that he’ll bounce back automatically. He’s going to turn 37 in June and it doesn’t seem to have crossed his mind that he might never pitch well again. I would be surprised if he does anything more than collapse in spectacular fashion this year.

Beauvighn

February 28th, 2010
5:13 pm

The FIRST of many stupid decisions by Cox this year. Give Huddy the ball…

Jarrod

February 28th, 2010
5:13 pm

Bobby’s always been about loyalty to veterans instead of loyalty to winning. Good idea, let’s start off with our fourth-best pitcher rather than our best one. Let’s give some starts to Julio Franco even though Jarrod Salty was hitting far better at the time (July 2007).

Let’s start Brian Jordan in Game 1 of the NLDS instead of one of the Baby Braves who could actually hit. Bobby’s justification at the time? “Just trying to catch lightening in a bottle.”

sterl

February 28th, 2010
5:13 pm

you gotta love bobby cox

renegade#1

February 28th, 2010
5:14 pm

Where is everybody else? Sunday afternoon siesta?

dylan

February 28th, 2010
5:15 pm

Tom H

February 28th, 2010
5:15 pm

I have faith in Bobby. He knows how to best utilize his talent so they preform for him. If Lowe responds positively, the rotation could be the best in baseball.

Jack

February 28th, 2010
5:17 pm

Bobby Cox is a hall of fame manager… Why would I second guess him. Mark Bowman said the reasoning is it gives Hudson an extra day of rest between each of his first three starts and sets it up to give JJ and Hanson some extra rest in the seasons second half. Sounds logical and smart to me… Go Braves!!!!

willieg hates bill shanks

February 28th, 2010
5:26 pm

Enter your comments here

hal

February 28th, 2010
5:29 pm

these idoiots wouldent know a manager if he sat on them why bother to point out just what mr bowman said his reasons were these boneheads get a wild idea that someone back in t ball (theonly) thing they ever played) was how thjings should be done and so forget the fact that everyone in baseball agress mr cox is a ist ballot hof managers you will never change there pin brain just post lowes stats after he beats the cubs i did that several times after some of the genius on these boards statements last year they dont much like that though

willieg hates bill shanks

February 28th, 2010
5:31 pm

this team will finish in last place , hanson is #1 . cox is naming now they havent played 1 spring game yet. this is how stupid bobby is or he has developed alzheimers so now he has a real excuse he will manage this year the worst this team will be so far out come may they will not catch phillies.bring on the next losers the hawks, thrashers , and those lovable falcons .

Melissa

February 28th, 2010
5:34 pm

>>Derek Lowe goes from trade bait to opening day starter?<<

Who cares.

Ken Stallings

February 28th, 2010
5:35 pm

For all the reasons you well outlined, Schultz, it is a sensible decision to start off with Lowe on the mound.

willieg hates bill shanks

February 28th, 2010
5:35 pm

THIS TEAM SINCE WASHINGTON GOT MUCH BETTER WILL FINISH IN LAST PLACE BOBBY WILL GO OUT A LOSER JUST LIKE HE STARTED A LOSER. 1 WORLD TITLE IN THE NINITIES UNEXCUSABLE.

willieg hates bill shanks

February 28th, 2010
5:37 pm

EXCUSEABLE RIDICULOUS LORD BRING THE FOOTBALL SEASON ON FAST.

willieg hates bill shanks

February 28th, 2010
5:40 pm

PHILLIES 1ST , FLORIDA 2ND, WASHINGTON 3RD, BRAVES4TH , THERE YOU GO BOBBY MANAGE THAT .

cattle dawg

February 28th, 2010
5:43 pm

I cant lie , Im just ready for opening day. I also want to watch the big rookie in batting practice.

willieg hates bill shanks

February 28th, 2010
5:45 pm

the braves will lose the opener to the mets march the 2nd .weell maybe not it is the mets.

Alaska Braves Fan

February 28th, 2010
5:47 pm

Some contributors to this blog have achieved a state of mind usually reserved to those who depend upon chemical substances to take them out of the real world. Those same writers exhibit such an extraordinarily shallow level of thinking that it takes my breath away! But, the one characteristic that I find most troubling in those who bash a great manager and want to “encourage” Braves players by mistreating and threatening them, is their simple meanness. I don’t suppose that tone will be moderated by a paragraph from me, though I truly do hope some plague of actual cogitation strikes those folks.

In the end, the proof is in the pudding. Let’s encourage this team, and expect a very good season!

ABF

ASHEVILLE DAWG

February 28th, 2010
5:50 pm

Typical Booby Cox. It’s his last year,,thank gawd. If he brings back Greg Norton we know it is all a joke.

fieldofdreams

February 28th, 2010
5:50 pm

The Hanson lad is our best pitcher,as of right now. If Bobby doesn’t give him the Opening Day ball it’s a huge mistake.

SlimG

February 28th, 2010
5:54 pm

hopefully the last of the bad decisions bobby has made his whole career. give tp the job and lets move forward.

Bobby blows

February 28th, 2010
5:57 pm

This is a terrilbe idea! Lowe sucks!

With that said, the “back end” of our rotation should enjoy some favorable matchups against other 3-4-5 pitching.

NRBQ

February 28th, 2010
6:07 pm

Maybe the Cubs will recognize this latest brilliance, and run their fourth-best starter out there against him.

Steve

February 28th, 2010
6:24 pm

To those that do NOT know baseball, let me explain further why this is a great idea.

Kawakami and Lowe are really the only two choices here. Why? Most opening day starters try to hard to get that team off to an opening day win. They should still be throwing in the 90-95% stress range, for about 5-6 innings. Instead they are so amped up they tend to overthrow and risk injuring themselves. All this being said, here is why Lowe and Kawakami are the only two choices.

Jurrgens is already ailing. The last thing you want him to do is overwork or overstress his arm trying to be lights out on opening day. The fact he is young makes this even worse, as he will probably be trying to dominate the other team.

Hudson is coming off an injury and needs to continue to take it easy while building up arm strength. This starts last year were not enough to consider him back to full strength. You absolutely don’t want him out there tearing up his arm by trying so hard to get that first win.

Hanson. Very similar to Jurrgens on the youth thing. Hanson might have the best stuff of the Braves, but he also wants to prove he is the ace they are hoping he is. Everyone on the planet knows he would probably be overtaxing his arm on opening day.

This leaves Lowe and Kawakami. Kawakami actually wouldn’t be a bad choice because he has shown to have big game potential. That being said, Lowe is your innings eater. Lowe also has a throwing style and pitch style that doesn’t require him to go max velocity on his pitches. In fact, it’s actually detrimental.

Lowe is the obvious choice. Is he the best choice for that one game, probably not. He is however the absolute best choice when you think abotu the 162 game season.

Ron Gant

February 28th, 2010
6:30 pm

With all the talent Bobby Cox has had over the last 20 years, Atlanta should have no less than 3 World Series titles. John Schuerholz handed Cox great teams for many years and Cox mismanaged them all for the most part.

"Chef" Tim Dix

February 28th, 2010
6:31 pm

I go with changing of the guard and give the rock to Big Red.

Just one of a million reasons the “Chef” isn’t the “skipper”.

Reality Check

February 28th, 2010
6:43 pm

Lowe won as many games as Javier Vazquez last year. However, while the local media has fawned over Vazquez all winter because he had a career year, Lowe (who has CONSISTENTLY performed throughout his career) has been labeled as trade bait. The big difference between the two was that Lowe had a higher ERA; Big deal he had a higer ERA it all comes down to wins, and I believe he would have won a few more with run support. Sometimes following the media can drive you batty!!

rob

February 28th, 2010
6:45 pm

“Ron Gant” if that really is your name, Bobby built those teams while GM before Schuerholz took over.

stew

February 28th, 2010
6:57 pm

Reality check-

Vasquez might have won the Cy Young with more run support.

IPayForAOL

February 28th, 2010
7:06 pm

Reality Check (February 28th, 2010 6:43 pm EST): Lowe won as many games as Javier Vazquez last year. However, while the local media has fawned over Vazquez all winter because he had a career year, Lowe (who has CONSISTENTLY performed throughout his career) has been labeled as trade bait. The big difference between the two was that Lowe had a higher ERA; Big deal he had a higer ERA it all comes down to wins, and I believe he would have won a few more with run support. Sometimes following the media can drive you batty!!

Are you being sarcastic?

If not, this is retarded.

Ted Striker

February 28th, 2010
7:06 pm

If you can’t feel comfortable starting your $45 million pitcher, you probably can’t feel comfortable making love to your wife either.

GTAlum

February 28th, 2010
7:28 pm

1st of all, I think you guys are way overreacting. We’re talking about 1 out of 162 games. This game isn’t going to decide the season.

2nd, it’s not like Lowe is some scrub. The guy’s a solid pitcher who pitched well for half of last season. Now, he is getting older, and he may be losing it, but it’s also possible it was just mechanical problems.

As for show the guy he might lose his job to Medlen, we’ve got the guy for $15M the next three years. What do you think the Braves’ chances of winning over that period of time are if we’re paying that kind of money for a mop-up guy? Like it or not, Lowe’s future is tied to ours right now.

Now I’m not promoting Cox as a great in-game strategist, but the guy does know how to handle players. Even if this is just Cox trying to boost Lowe’s confidence and make him feel wanted, do you really think this decision is going to destroy our season?

Reality Check

February 28th, 2010
7:39 pm

Are you being sarcastic?

If not, this is retarded.-no sarcasm bro, check the facts (stats) yourself, don’t let columnists tell you who should be playing between the lines.

[...] ♦ Hoe does Derek Lowe go from trade bait to opening day starter? [...]

uberVU - social comments

February 28th, 2010
7:54 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcsportseditor: @jeffschultzajc writes that Derek Lowe is named Opening Day starter for Braves http://bit.ly/bBu32u…

Jeff Schultz

February 28th, 2010
7:55 pm

Gotta jump on a flight now folks. Just for the record, I’m sort of neutral on this decision.I understand both sides of the issues. Just wanted to point out that oddity of it. I’ll check back later for comments. Thanks, Jeff.

Mark

February 28th, 2010
8:42 pm

Makes sense…let’s find out early what D Lowe is all about this season…if he puts it together, maybe we’ve got a much better staff than expected…if not, then we all know it was lost money…I like it.

GTAlum

February 28th, 2010
8:53 pm

Reality Check, what matters in the end may be how many Ws a pitcher gets you, but that’s hardly a good measure of a pitcher. Russ Ortiz won 21 games the first year he was here. Does that mean he was one of the elite pitchers in baseball? Bronson Arroyo and Jason Marquis had more wins than Jurrjens and Johan Santana. Do you think they’re better pitchers? Heck, Lowe had more wins that Jurrjens and Santana. Does that mean he’s better than either of them?

bruce

February 28th, 2010
8:54 pm

I like it… no harm, all good, build confidence, tip the cap, announce it early to eliminate speculation, let other topics emerge as the month progresses.
However, I think we will score alot more runs starting the season compared to last year… CF, 2B, and RF much more productive starting the season. very exciting.
Jeff, thanks for helping build more anticipation and giving us some really fun stories. Nice job.

Reality Check

February 28th, 2010
9:08 pm

I just don’t understand the discrepency in treatment by the media: Lowe 2009 Record-15-10; Vazquez 2009 record 15-10.

Kashi

February 28th, 2010
9:10 pm

I agree with this decision. In every job seniority counts, Lowe may have pitch poorly towards the end of last season but he deserve it to be a opening day starter….GO Braves!

GTAlum

February 28th, 2010
9:20 pm

Reality Check, because anyone who watched both of them pitch all of last season knows there was a pretty big discrepancy in how well they pitched. I’m not saying Vazquez is a better pitcher, be he did have a better season, and he was far more consistent last year than Lowe.

Brava

February 28th, 2010
9:37 pm

Well, as someone who will be at The Ted on opening day, I support this decision. What better way to allow Lowe to vindicate himself with Braves fans while also showing confidence in him? If he screws it up, well, he will have reinforced the somewhat common perception that he is a too old has-been. If he pulls off a solid performance and a win, he will greatly dispel that perception and elevate himself in the eyes of Braves fans. Smart move.

AWJ

February 28th, 2010
9:58 pm

I don’t see anything wrong with the move. It is one game. Let’s look at the entire CAREER of our rotation…..

1. Derek Lowe – many years of success, playoffs, veteran, pitched in big games, etc. A good thing to do to give him some confidence and mend the fences.
2. JJ – injured right now. He must start slow. Only has 2 years in the majors. Never been the #1 guy, although he will be soon.
3. Hanson – rookie. has not been in the majors for a full season. Has great stuff and is a future #1, but no real experience in an “opening day role”
4. Huddy – coming off tommy john….needs to start slow and not have a lot of pressure on him early.
5. KK – No way…He needs some confidence but has shown moments of briliance.

To me, Lowe is the obvious choice…..

Wink

February 28th, 2010
10:30 pm

Starting Lowe on opening day has many positive and one negative;

The negative is the high ERA towards the end of the year; the best part of this negative is it was last year.

All starting pitchers in MLB will start with an ERA of 0.00, which means at the end of the day half of them will surly have a higher ERA.

Lowe is a veteran which will reduce the opening day stress, quitely frankly he may be the most healthy starter on the staff.

He a innings eater, let him get off an running.

Maybe he feels like he has something to prove.

After the trade rumors, it shows the club has confidence in him.

He was tied with Vasquez, our so called best pitcher last year, at 15 & 10. Surely if he had won 21 games with the same ERA, we would have forgiven that an put him out there as our best pitcher this year. Maybe Vasquez could have done more to win more than 15 games to make this a moot point. Not putting Vasquez down, he did a fantastic job, but results are the results as far as wins.

Also, keep in mind, we have a bullpen that seems to be pretty well stocked, to support him. Maybe he pitches well enough we don’t need them.

Lastly, it opening day, game 1 of 162,even if it’s the wrong decision, we don’t lose the pennant that day.

Guys it’s a marathon, pitching is not my concern, hitting & defense, is what I am not sure of. Let’s see how many pitcher ERA we can drive up.

Go Braves

Preachin Bravo fan

February 28th, 2010
10:40 pm

Corrrect me if I’m wrong but it seems I can rememebr a very good first outing by Lowe last year which set the tone for great expectations for the team that season. Throughout the season many times Lowe was the victim of shoddy fielding and low production offensively that eventually took it’s toal on the entire staff that remained until Wren finaly gt off his duff and brought in some key firepower like Nate and Roachy that turned the them into a contender albeit too late to overcome the damage already caused .

gene garbage

February 28th, 2010
10:47 pm

it is the obvious choice..as for the comment “Lowe is perceived by most as the fourth best pitcher….”,,huh??? that should say, “Lowe is perceived by most of those whom have never played nor coached past little league as the fourth best pitcher…” just picking at cha a little Jeff.. BUT, most of us Braves fans think he is the obvious choice. Sure, he struggled at the end of the year, while dealing with a really bad blister on his throwing hand, which caused him to have problems with his sinker, but, at the beginning of the year, he did pretty good. Wasn’t he 7-1 or something at one time? He’d be my choice as well…As long as we stay healthy at Starting Pitching, we’ll be more than okay there…My question is, do they keep Heyward on the squad if he proves he’s ready?

Ken Stallings

February 28th, 2010
11:20 pm

Steve,

Let me add one more reason to your excellent analysis …

Lowe is a sinker ball pitcher, which relies upon location and tempo. Early in the season, Lowe generally does well because the hitters are behind the pitchers, especially with pitchers who rely on changes of speed to keep the batters off balance.