FORT MYERS, Fla. – The cast third baseman Mike Lowell wore on his right thumb for six weeks is gone. The Red Sox uniform he’s worn the past four years might not be far behind.

Lowell, the MVP of the 2007 World Series, figures he’s still on the trading block after a deal to send him to the Texas Rangers fell through in December because he needed thumb surgery. So, Lowell is still with the team that tried to get rid of him.

”I want to stress that I wasn’t stressed,” he said Tuesday, one day before his 36th birthday.

Lowell knows he wouldn’t play much with Boston if everyone stays healthy. Adrian Beltre is the new third baseman after five years in Seattle. David Ortiz returns as designated hitter and Kevin Youkilis hit .312 and .305 the past two seasons at first base, a position Lowell might start playing.

So he’s taking his odd situation in stride, knowing the Red Sox will be showcasing him for other teams to see if he’s healthy. He also knows there’s a possibility he’ll stay put after the failed trade.

”It didn’t go through. I was like, ‘All right, it didn’t go through,”’ Lowell said. ”I’m pretty confident I’m going to be in the big leagues this year somewhere. And I still view that as a privilege. No one needs to feel sorry for me.”

He was hurt on the last Friday of the regular season when he fouled a ball off his thumb. It wasn’t until December when he learned through an MRI exam that he had a torn ligament.

The recovery period after his surgery on Dec. 30 was put at eight weeks, an estimate that seems right on target. Lowell said he thinks he’ll be ready to play in next Wednesday’s spring training opener but knows he might be held back to make sure he’s ready.

He’s in much better shape than he was a year ago after offseason hip surgery, he said. He played with discomfort much of the year but still hit .290 with 17 home runs and 75 RBI in 119 games.

”I feel like I’m more prepared and ready for a full season than I was last year, so why shouldn’t I play more than I did last year, whether it’s here or somewhere else?” he said.

Lowell is widely respected around the league for his maturity and personality.

”He’s been a terrific player and a terrific teammate and a terrific person, and we try to make decisions that we think are really best for the Red Sox,” Manager Terry Francona said. ”You don’t know where it’s going to lead. You really don’t.”

Lowell said he doesn’t have any gut feeling if he’ll be with Boston on opening day. But chances he’ll go to the Rangers diminished when they signed Vladimir Guerrero as their designated hitter.


ATHLETICS: Eric Chavez got his first workout at first base during Oakland’s spring training practice at Phoenix.

Chavez won six Gold Gloves at third base for the A’s. He’s been limited by injuries during the past three seasons, but Oakland wants to try to keep his bat in the lineup this year.

The position change should relieve some of the strain on his weakened shoulder, though he’ll take grounders at third base and at shortstop.

• Right-hander Justin Duchscherer underwent a procedure to relieve discomfort in his lower back and is expected to rejoin the team today.


BRAVES: Atlanta signed 18-year-old shortstop Edward Salcedo of the Dominican Republic to a minor league contract.


AARON BOONE announced his retirement following a 12-year major league career and said he will become a baseball analyst for ESPN.

Following open-heart surgery last March 23, Boone returned to the Houston Astros and went 0 for 13 in September.


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