Friday, December 6, 2013
By KRISTIE RIEKEN The Associated Press
HOUSTON - Jed Lowrie was eager to become a starter when he was traded to the Houston Astros by the Boston Red Sox in December after several injury-filled seasons that left him in a utility role.
Jed Lowrie, a former Sea Dog, not only makes both the easy and tough plays at shortstop for the Houston Astros, but is a mentor to second baseman Jose Altuve.
The Associated Press
Lowrie took over as the everyday shortstop and quickly became one of the high points of Houston's tough first half. He leads the Astros with a career-high 14 homers and has helped speed the defensive development of young second baseman Jose Altuve.
Lowrie is hitting .254 with 71 hits and 36 RBI for the Astros, whose terrible road record left them with the worst record in baseball at the break (33-53).
The 78 games Lowrie played in the first half are only 10 fewer than his career high set last year.
He made his major league debut in 2008 after playing for the Portland Sea Dogs but never played a full season, because of injuries to his left wrist, left forearm and right shoulder. He also missed time because of mononucleosis.
Despite his track record, the switch hitter was unhappy that he gained the label of being injury-prone.
"If you were to ask me, I thought it was unfair due to the nature of the injuries, but the reality was if you were to look back I missed a lot of games because of injury," he said. "I'm looking to play a full season and stay healthy and kind of shake that."
The injury bug followed him to Houston when he sprained his right thumb in spring training. But it wasn't serious, and he made his debut with the Astros after missing the first six games.
He impressed immediately, hitting .297 with two homers and seven RBI in April. Lowrie continued to heat up in May, connecting for six home runs, seven doubles and 14 RBI. His averaged tapered off in June but the power remained, and he added six homers in the month.
The Astros knew he was solid on defense and a good hitter, but they have been surprised by his power. Lowrie had just 19 home runs combined in his first four major league seasons.
His 14 home runs in 2012 are the most by a shortstop in the first half of the season in franchise history and second-most by a shortstop in the NL this season. He has teamed with Altuve, who is hitting .303, to provide a big offensive punch from Houston's middle infield.
"It's pretty rare to have that, especially the power from those guys," Manager Brad Mills said. "Both those guys being a catalyst for our offense is huge."
Lowrie is certainly happy with his offensive outburst in the first half of the season, but knows that the key will be keeping it up after the break.
"I'm not going to get caught up in my numbers halfway through the season," he said. "I know what I'm doing right now; I know if I just keep my head down and keep the same approach, I'm going to continue to have the success I've had.
"When I say success, it doesn't necessarily mean hard numbers -- home runs -- but continuing to have quality at-bats."
Perhaps as important as his work at the plate has been his tutelage of Altuve, the 22-year-old infielder in his first full season with the Astros.
"He brings a little bit of experience to the whole situation," Mills said of Lowrie. "When we have things that go on during the game, he's able to talk to him about it. They've done a real good job of talking to one another and helping them through different situations."
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