FORT MYERS -- It sounds like the perfect storybook ending: after winning a World Series in the town you grew up in, moving on and winning another with one of the most famous organizations in sports, you return home and finish out your career in front of family and friends.
Even Mike Lowell -- whose name has been linked in trade rumors to the Marlins since last week -- admits it sounds good. But at this point, the likelihood Lowell will be rewarded with such a scenario appears to be minimal.
Although a Marlins source told El Nuevo Herald's Jorge Ebro Wednesday that the club is interested in reacquiring the corner infielder who won a ring with them in 2003, a combination of factors make the reality of Lowell's return home unlikely.
For starters, first baseman Gaby Sanchez has had a good spring (he's hitting .382). Secondly, the Marlins already have a veteran corner infielder in Wes Helms who is fulfilling the role Lowell would provide if acquired. Lastly, a National League scout told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald Wednesday that Lowell's mobility 17 months after hip surgery still isn't where it needs to be.
Still, that doesn't mean Marlins fans -- and Lowell, now 36 -- can't dream.
"I know the story sounds good I just don’t know if it works, since it's not my call," Lowell said. "Honestly, I have never seen Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison swing a bat. I haven’t seen [Jorge] Cantu play in three years. There’s no DH in the National League. I don’t know if that’s going to work. If I was traded to another team I would definitely evaluate it. Obviously it's human nature to think about things.
"Trust me, I've had a lot of people calling, ‘Did you read the Marlins article?’ I’m like, ‘Well, I’m in Fort Myers, I don’t get The Herald or The Post. I know there are a lot of people who see the feel-goodness of coming back home and all that. But I look at is as Miami is going to be my home anyways, whether I’m playing for the Marlins or not. I’d love to be a part of watching that team get better, whether I’m playing or not."
Since Lowell left the Marlins in November 2005 with Josh Beckett in the trade that netted Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, Lowell has managed to remain a consistent run producer, driving in at least 73 runs with 17 home runs each of the last four seasons. In 2007, he hit .324 with 21 home runs and 120 RBI. But with the Red Sox looking to move forward with other players, he's found himself this spring amid trade rumors and likely headed toward a season on the bench if he isn't shipped off.
Healthwise, Lowell said he actually feels better than he did a year ago when he played in 119 games, hit .290 with 17 homers and 75 RBI coming back from hip surgery. But so far this spring, he is just 1 for 10 in four games coming off thumb surgery. The Red Sox are playing him almost exclusively at first base, though Lowell maintains he still has "the quick step" needed to play third.
"I can do everything except basically run the way I did two years ago," Lowell said. "But with that being said, I think I'm running better than I did last year. I was never fast to start. If there's going to be something I lose out on, it might as well be that. I don't think my defense [has been affected]. If anything, I feel like I'm playing much better defense than last year because I don't feel any pain because of the surgery on those quick first steps playing the corner. So, in that sense, I'm very encouraged. My thumb's fine. If I take 75 to 100 swings it gets a little tired. After the first two weeks of the spring, I think you just have to build the endurance. I think the thumb thing was just a formality. It's not something I have to rehab for four months to get to."
Still, the likelihood Lowell gets off the bench for the Red Sox appears slim. Manager Terry Francona said Wednesday he's trying to get Lowell as much work as possible "without interrupting anybody else." Lowell said he's well aware he might not play much this season. He's just not sure if he's ready for it.
"For me to have significant playing time, somebody either needs to get hurt or do really bad. I'm really not wishing that on anyone. That's kind of bad karma anyway," Lowell said. "I'd rather have playing time based on whether I deserve it or not. I think that's the thing that's made it a little bit different in that I do feel like I'm better than last year. Last year, I really had to grind out the at-bats and grind out the games. But I still feel like for the games I played, I put up satisfactory numbers. I'm looking at maybe a quarter of that all year if everything stays status quo.
"That's the pill that's hard to swallow because I was looking to improve not to backtrack. I don't feel like I backtracked in my abilities. I think I'm healthier than I was last year. I'm just preparing myself because I don't know what's going to happen. I have no idea what people are thinking behind closed doors in the organization. I just prepare myself the same way and go about my business."