Professional athletes are creatures of habit. So it’s not a reach to suggest Derek Lowe probably felt slightly off-kilter at the outset of his start Sunday.
Why? Because lying on a prison cot for several hours three nights before a start is not part of his usual routine.
“Something like that has a way of humbling you,” Braves teammate Chipper Jones said Sunday. “Derek is one of the class clowns in here. He’s one of the more outgoing, funny guys. He’s one of the guys who keeps the clubhouse mood light. But you can see it affected his personality a little bit.”
It also may have affected his performance at the outset Sunday — not that we’ll ever know because Lowe wouldn’t let anybody peek into his cranium.
After being arrested for DUI, reckless driving and improper lane change late Thursday night, Lowe returned to the mound against St. Louis on Sunday at Turner Field. It didn’t start well. He got slapped around in the first inning for three runs and four hits, including two doubles. But returning thereafter “probably hot under the collar” (Jones’ words), Lowe limited the Cardinals to one run in the next four innings.
The Braves rallied to win 6-5. Brooks Conrad (.083) delivered the game-winning RBI single off the bench in the ninth. All was well with this typically non-film-at-11 franchise once again – well, unless you count the two-week suspension to pitching coach Roger McDowell for saying unbelievably stupid things.
This certainly ranked as one of the more bizarre weekends in franchise history, but Lowe wasn’t in the mood for perspective. He was lobbed a couple of softball questions about overcoming a difficult week and abruptly he cut them off. It was unusual for a player who’s generally accommodating with the media vultures (though he did answer a few other questions.)
Vultures: “After everything that was going on during the week …”
Vultures: “Given the events of the past few days, was there any affect at all …”
Lowe: “Again, I’m not even going to – it’s not even a question.”
Vultures: “What’s wrong with the question? That’s twice you’ve declined to …”
Lowe: (He walks away without commenting.)
Officially, he didn’t get credit for a complete game or interview.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez didn’t speculate if Lowe was pressing at the outset, but he acknowledged the possibility.
“That’s a question that — I don’t know what these guys have mentally,” he said. “I know he gave us everything. From the second to fourth, he was nails. It happens sometimes. You’re dealing with human beings. I’m sure it would be hard to put something like that off.”
Nobody will ask about the arrest after Lowe’s next start. As Jones said, “This will fade. … There’s no better sanctuary for getting something like that in the rear-view mirror than to go out and face the crowd and play three hours of a ball.”
The Braves could be pleased for a few reasons. Lowe rebounded. They salvaged a game after blowing late-inning leads the previous two nights. Their pitching coach still has a job.
McDowell was handed a two-week suspension for homophobic slurs and inappropriate language with San Francisco fans. That allegedly included him telling a fan, “How much are your teeth worth?” (Baseball never confirmed specifics of the dialogue.)
Fact is, both the pitcher and the pitching coach should be thankful. Lowe didn’t kill anybody. McDowell was suspended for only two weeks. He could have lost his job. A suspension of at least 30 games certainly could have been justified, especially after a San Francisco Chronicle story Sunday quoted another fan that corroborated pretty much everything that had been alleged by a previous fan.
Ask yourself this: If a Braves’ employee other than a valuable pitching coach (or player) had done something similar, would he still have a job today?
McDowell released a statement saying he was “embarrassed by my actions.” He is eligible to return next week. On Friday the 13th, of course. Maybe then, the Braves can return to some sense of normalcy.
By Jeff Schultz