Same Jed, new position: Lowrie tackles first

Irvin cycles through arsenal in start vs. Reds

March 31st, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- With only 28 career innings played at first base, as opposed to 9,324 innings at the other three infield spots combined, Jed Lowrie has not needed to own a first baseman’s glove. However, with an opening there this spring, the A’s would like to get a look at the veteran infielder at the position.

So begins the crash course.

Making his Cactus League debut in a 5-4 A’s victory over the Reds on Wednesday at Hohokam Stadium, Lowrie got the start at first base and logged four innings at the spot. The last time Lowrie had previously appeared there in a game? That was over a decade ago, when he did so with the Red Sox for three innings on Sept. 6, 2011.

“It’s been a long while,” said Lowrie. “It’s something they’ve asked me to do, so I’m going to go out there and take in as much as I can as we go.”

Yet to receive the first baseman’s mitt he ordered earlier in the week, Lowrie, who re-signed with the A’s on Saturday, used the gloves of three teammates throughout the contest. He started out with the first-base glove of Chad Pinder, then switched over to Austin Allen’s, before finishing with Stephen Vogt’s.

There wasn’t much action for Lowrie on defense. The only ball hit his way was a tough hard-hit chopper off the bat of Max Schrock that evaded his backhanded attempt near the bag and rolled into right field. A second baseman for the majority of his career, Lowrie noted the differences between the two positions.

“The angles that the balls come off at. Clearly, the speed,” Lowrie said. “You’re closer to the ball. It’s little things like that. It’s just a different position. The footwork is different. The way you field ground balls. The glove is different. I’m just trying to figure out what it’s going to take for me to play the position.”

At the plate, Lowrie’s bat-to-ball skills still looked to be sharp. Having received five at-bats in a Minor League game Tuesday, he saw three pitches from Reds starter Vladimir Gutierrez before lining an RBI single to center in his first at-bat as part of a 1-for-2 day.

“I still feel like I’m in the first few days of camp right now where you’re just trying to get back to game speed,” Lowrie said. “Trying to recognize pitches and get your timing down. Get your eyes dialed in to what game speed is.”

At this point, it’s all about getting into game shape for Lowrie. He’s aware of the short amount of time he’ll have to get ready from now until Opening Day on April 8. With only six Cactus League games remaining, expect the 37-year-old switch-hitter to get as many innings as he can handle.

“I’m two weeks behind everybody here,” Lowrie said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I get up to game speed as quickly as possible, but it’s really hard to make that go faster than you actually can. It’s a matter of feel and getting out there, getting your adrenaline up. Those are things you just can’t replicate.”

Irvin continues buildup
Cole Irvin
viewed his outing Wednesday as a two-part series. In the early innings, he mainly threw fastballs of the two-seam and four-seam variety. But the left-hander later began to integrate the rest of his arsenal of pitches, including his newly learned cutter inside to hitters, along with sinkers away, sliders and changeups. The end result: Three runs allowed (two earned) on six hits with no walks and two strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings.

“For three starts into Spring Training, getting five up is pretty solid,” said Irvin, who was pulled after reaching his 70-pitch limit with two outs in the fifth. “I was a little nervous there in the third about getting myself into the fifth, but we got there. That’s all that matters. I started finding my footing towards the end of the outing.”

Though he didn’t have a particularly good feel for his slider, Irvin said he threw arguably his best one so far this spring in the first inning as the putaway pitch on a strikeout of Jake Fraley.

“That was one of my better sliders this spring,” Irvin said. “I had like, three good sliders. But otherwise, I was hanging them. Just trying to get out in front of them a little bit more. But made a really good pitch to Fraley to strike him out. Something to build off of.”