Although none of the three players expected to be the Oakland A's regular first basemen in 2012…
Looking for Daylight
That's when Gregor Blanco -- aboard with a one-out single – broke for second when Melky Cabrera singled on a hard shot to second. Blanco came charging in with a head of steam, and slid hard into the bag, where starting shortstop and Houston home run leader Jed Lowrie waited, taking his eye off the play for just a fraction of a second as he reached for the throw.
All he could feel was the sharp dig of spikes into his ankle. Blanco's foot pinned Lowrie's to the ground, while the rest of Lowrie's leg wrenched. Immediately, he knew something was amiss.
He hopped around for a moment, then broke down onto his hands and knees in pain.
"I didn't know exactly what happened, and I wasn't really looking at the play," recalls Lowrie, now in camp with the Oakland Athletics after being traded two weeks before spring training. "I got hit and it hurt right away. I didn't know what happened. I think I'm lucky that something more significant didn't happy."
The diagnosis was a severely sprained ankle and damage to the peroneal nerve, which runs up the lower leg. Lowrie was limited to just 97 games in 2012, finishing the season with 16 home runs, 42 RBI, 18 doubles, a .438 slugging percentage and a .244 batting average.
"Who knows what the possibilities were, but I think I'm lucky that something more serious didn't happen," Lowrie says.
Lowrie insists that there are no issues lingering with the ankle, and judging by his tour around the infield this spring, he's not fibbing. Manager Bob Melvin played him at shortstop on Sunday, before starting Lowrie at second on Monday, and he intends to see what Lowrie can do at third as spring wears on.
The Athletics have seemingly hitched their wagon to Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima at short, but that isn't Lowrie's only option. He'll be worked in at second base among a crowded field that includes Jemile Weeks, Adam Rosales and maybe even Eric Sogard. At third, he'll have to compete with incumbent Josh Donaldson, who hit .241 in 75 big league games last season with nine home runs and 33 RBI.
All of that is piled atop the fact that Lowrie will be playing with his third major league team in three years, and switching leagues, though Lowrie did spend the first four seasons of his career in Boston.
"I was set to go to Kissimmee [Fla.], and had all the arrangements there, and I had to adjust on the fly. That's part of the game," Lowrie says. "That's part of the game, so you just kind of prepare, but in the back of your mind, you know that something could change."
As for preparation for games, Lowrie will have to be nimble and malleable as a bit of a super-utility player, as he tries to find a home in the field.
"I think, at the end of the day, you've got to do what the team asks of you, so I'll make the best of it," Lowrie says. "You try not to take what's going on, on the field, into your at-bats. I do the best I can to adjust to the situation."
While versatility is often praised as a virtue for young players, for Lowrie, the fact that he can play so many positions may, paradoxically, actually hurt him, according to Melvin.
"We're not sure how it's going to play out," says the A's skipper. "The competition for us in camp is more for who's going to fit, where. We're feeling that out. It kind of works against him that he is so versatile, and can play all the different positions. He played short [Sunday], he'll play second [Monday], we'll have him out at third at some point. We'll take a while in the spring to kind of figure out where things are going to go, once the season starts."
Ryan Gorcey writes about the MLB for Fox Sports Next and publishes Cal Sports Digest. Follow him on Twitter @RGBearTerritory.
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