Nine days ago, Derek Lowe was tossing batting practice to his 9-year-old’s youth-league team.
Fast forward to Friday, and there the 39-year-old was on a big-league mound getting the likes of Pablo Sandoval to fly out and Hunter Pence to ground out.
Lowe had an impressive spring training debut with the Texas Rangers, working two scoreless innings in what became a 5-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium.
It’s a good first step for Lowe, who is trying to win a spot in the Rangers’ bullpen after signing a minor-league deal on March 6.
“You can’t duplicate this,” Lowe said of the game action. “You’ve got to get out there and get in competition and try to build on it. You’ve got 10-12 days to go out there and make a good impression and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Lowe accomplished that in his first appearance and his odds of making the Opening Day roster seem fairly good, with several of the right-handed relief candidates struggling. He is a veteran who can provide multi-inning relief and serve a valuable role in the bullpen.
Lowe started the game by allowing a leadoff single to Andres Torres, who stole second. Lowe then got Marco Scutaro to fly out to right fielder Craig Gentry, who slipped slightly when making the catch. Torres saw the slip and tried to take third, but Gentry recovered and unleashed a perfect throw to nail Torres.
“We might still be out there if it wasn’t for that,” Lowe said, smiling. “I thought he wasn’t going to be able to make the play, but I loved it.”
Said Gentry: “Derek told me ‘good job,’ but he’s the one who did a good job.”
Lowe got out of the inning by getting Sandoval to fly out.
Buster Posey drew a walk to start the second, but Lowe induced a fielder’s choice groundout in the next at-bat by Pence. Brandon Belt then singled to put runners at first and second, but Lowe got out of it with another fielder’s choice grounder and a fly out.
“To be able to get out of a little bit of a situation in the second inning is always encouraging,” Lowe said. “The bottom line is you still know how to play the game, you’ve just got to do it.”
Lowe did what he’s known for over his two-inning outing. One National League scout who has seen Lowe countless times said: “That’s Derek Lowe in a nutshell. He mixed it up and showed his pitchability.”
Manager Ron Washington agreed and was pleased to see Lowe carry over his successful work in live batting practices and bullpen sessions to a game.
“Very good first impression,” Washington said. “It was nice for him to get out there and face some hitters and get the juices flowing.”
Lowe knows he won’t make the team on one solid outing, but that was a better first impression than most of the right-handed relief candidates have made so far this spring.
Evan Meek, Josh Lindblom and Collin Balestar have gotten off to slow starts. Johan Yan, who had stints at Double A and Triple A last season, hadn’t allowed a hit this spring until serving up a two-run homer to Pence in the fourth inning.
Cory Burns, Coty Woods and Yoshinori Tateyama are other right-handed relievers in camp, but nobody has separated themselves.
“They’re still battling it out,” Washington said.
Another guy, who has 16 years of big-league experience, has joined the battle.
“I’m going to try to do my best, just like everybody else is,” Lowe said. “It’s a competition and about who pitches the best.”