How Lowe Can You Go?

Derek Lowe may or may not be looking at the end of the line, too.

The Cleveland Indians designated Lowe for assignment Wednesday, a day after he was murdered by the Kansas City Royals, who buried him with seven runs, eight hits, and two walks in two and a third innings, not to mention Lowe himself not helping himself with a balk. The nuking added up to his fourth straight loss and an ERA of 15.88 in his final three starts. Bleacher Report and others think the heavy workload (he averaged 104 pitches per start) the 39-year-old righthander carried out of the chute may have factored.

In the Promised Land, 2004 . . .

That’s one surrealistic collapse during a season which began with Lowe going 6-1/2.05. His final tally as an Indian this year: 8-10/5.52. And, that’s a very long way from the mountaintop atop which Lowe stood at 2004’s end, when he was the winning pitcher in all three set clinchers during the Boston Red Sox’s stupefying postseason swath (Lowe is the only pitcher in Show history to win all a team’s single postseason deciders), including the Game Seven triumph in the American League Championship Series and the even more extraterrestrial World Series sweep.

He was allowed to leave as a free agent after 2004; there were those who whispered that his off-field life factored into the Red Sox’s decision not to bring him back. Lowe was  signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom he was a useful, workhorse starter who helped them reach two postseasons in four tries. But again his off-field life became an issue of sorts: as his first marriage was collapsing, he fell into a romance with Los Angeles sports reporter, Carolyn Hughes, host of Fox West’s Dodger Dugout program, whose own marriage was crumbling likewise. Fox West suspended Hughes pending a final internal investigation into her relationship with Lowe; the two finalised their divorces, Hughes decided to leave broadcasting, and she married Lowe in December 2008.

. . . and bottoming out in 2012.

A skin cancer survivor who has also been treated for attention deficit disorder, Lowe was left to free agency once again after his Dodger deal expired. The Atlanta Braves signed him on a four-year deal; he pitched serviceably for the Braves in the first two years but he led the National League in losses in 2011 and was dealt to the Indians for a minor leaguer.

There are those who still think Lowe has some quality pitching left in him. (One of his Cleveland wins was a six-hit shutout against the Minnesota Twins in May, which wasn’t exactly easy: he walked four while striking out nobody.) The rumour mills have already wound up with none-too-subtle thoughts that the Red Sox—pitching strapped this season, trying to salvage anything resembling a run to the postseason despite a fragmented clubhouse and a new manager of much-questioned performance thus far—could make a play to bring Lowe back to Fenway Park. Psychologically, it would be a big bump to the Red Sox fan base, particularly with controversial Josh Beckett injured yet again (he left a game this week with serious back spasms); realistically, it’s an open question as to whether it would work.

The Red Sox have two options if they do want to bring Lowe back: They can deal a low level prospect or two to the Indians to get him once he clears waivers; or, they can wait until the Indians release him outright and sign him as a free agent. But they’ve made no known noise about it at this writing. And if he is finished, Lowe can leave the game with a respectable career that sometimes knocked on greatness’s door and included a World Series ring he worked his can off to help his previously star-crossed team earn.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES—I don’t know if it began with Darin Erstad when he left the Los Angeles Angels (they decided not to re-sign him as a free agent; he took out a half-page thank-you ad in the Orange County Register), but taking out newspaper ad spaces to thank your longtime team and its fans has become something of a habit among some of baseball’s classier acts. As Shane Victorino left Philadelphia to go to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a non-waiver trade deadline deal, the outfielder dropped this to appear in the Philadelphia Daily News:

A nice way to say goodbye . . .

Victorino also tweeted, “A lot of unforgettable memories in this city. I’ll miss you guys!”

REACHING A DEAL?—Delmon Young is said to be trying to cut a deal with prosecutors in a very bizarre case involving the Detroit outfielder: he’s accused of yelling anti-Semitic epithets to a panhandler in yarmulke and Star of David necklace who approached a group of tourists in New York in April. His attorney says Young reacted to something said to him, though it isn’t clear by whom, and Manhattan prosecutors haven’t yet confirmed any plea deal is in the works. Young is free on bond and isn’t due back to court in the case until 7 November.

TRIPLE-A SHAKE—The New York Yankees shook up their Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA) affiliate, releasing outfielder Jack Cust, once a formidable major league power hitter; and, Colin Curtis and Ray Kruml (both of whom were on the team’s disabled list) Wednesday night. The moves are aimed at leaving room for outfield prospect Melky Mesa, considered a potent if undisciplined hitter but one of the better defenders among Yankee outfield prospects who might get a September look in the Bronx.

The surprise according to most Yankee watchers was the cutting of Cust, who was Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s arguable best hitter on the season thus far, hitting oly .249 but leading the club with 20 homers and 66 runs batted in. Cust’s arguable best major league season was 2008 with the Oakland Athletics, when he hit 33 bombs, posted a .375 on-base percentage, and led the American League in walks (111). But he only drove in 77 runs and, concurrently, led the league in strikeouts (197) for the second of three consecutive seasons. A year earlier, Cust posted the best OPS (.912) of his major league life.

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