Lowrie returns: 'I was hoping to come back'

March 28th, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- The reunion tour continues for the A’s.

Jed Lowrie became the latest player to reunite with Oakland, signing a one-year Major League deal on Saturday. The move comes just a couple of days after the A's brought back another fan favorite in Stephen Vogt.

“I told these guys at the end of last year I was hoping to come back,” Lowrie said prior to the A's 7-1 loss to the Mariners at Hohokam Stadium on Sunday. “I was looking for an opportunity in a place to get at-bats. Pretty quickly, we were in touch.”

Lowrie, who turns 38 in April, began his third stint with the A’s in 2021 when he received an invite to Spring Training and earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. The second baseman surpassed expectations with a career rejuvenation after two injury-riddled seasons with the Mets, hitting .245 and finishing with the second-most doubles (28) and third-most RBIs (69) on the club.

According to Lowrie, those numbers, while solid, don’t tell the whole story of his season.

“If you look at a lot of the statistics that they use to predict performance, I had very good batted-ball statistics last year,” Lowrie said. “I was one of the guys singled out as one of the most unlucky hitters in the game last year. Barrel percentage, chase rates, all that stuff. It was a really good year for me with the batted-ball statistics.”

A look at Lowrie’s player page on Baseball Savant will back up his statement. In 2021, his xBA, xSLG and xwOBA all were higher than his actual stats, indicating that he was indeed hitting better. The biggest hard-luck discrepancy was between his actual slugging percentage (.398) and xSLG (.465), which was the seventh-biggest difference in the Majors.

Like Vogt, Lowrie has enjoyed his best years with Oakland. It’s where he became an All-Star in 2018 and is a career .267 hitter with 74 home runs, 200 doubles and 389 RBIs over six seasons in green and gold.

Between Vogt and Lowrie, the A’s also regain some of the leadership that was lost from trading away a trio of core players in Chris Bassitt, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. The two were teammates for four seasons in Oakland, each playing a key role on A's squads that reached the postseason in 2013 and '14. Both have quickly re-acquainted inside the clubhouse at Hohokam Stadium, with lockers that face directly across from each other.

“That’s one of my favorite teammates of all time,” Lowrie said of Vogt. “Getting the opportunity to play with him again is exciting.”

Though he appeared in 71 games at second base in 2021, the switch-hitting Lowrie took reps at first base during a team workout at Hohokam Stadium prior to Saturday's game against the Guardians. It's a spot where Lowrie only has 11 career appearances in his Major League career, with the last coming in 2011 with the Red Sox. However, with an open competition for the first-base job this spring, Lowrie could be in line for some time at the position, in addition to second base and designated hitter.

Lowrie was limited to solely left-handed at-bats over the final month of last season due to a hairline fracture in his right wrist. Now fully recovered, he spent his time while unsigned back home in Houston trying to simulate all the workouts he would have normally been doing in Spring Training to this point.

Asked about how long it might take for Lowrie to get up to speed, A’s manager Mark Kotsay said he’d like to see him ready for Opening Day, but also pointed out how little time there is to build up to a full workload before Oakland's April 8 regular season-opener in Philadelphia. Lowrie himself is also aware of the situation, remaining non-committal about when he might be ready.

“I’m not even going to venture a guess,” said Lowrie. “There’s a reason we have [a] six-week Spring Training normally. I’m not saying it’s going to take me six weeks to get ready, but building up and getting that adrenaline, getting in the box ... that’s the type of stuff you have to build up to protect yourself from injury and to get your timing and be ready to play. I would be foolish to guess how long that’s going to take.”

Perhaps an underrated aspect of Lowrie’s return is the value he brings as an extra hitting resource inside the clubhouse. In the buildup to what was Olson’s first All-Star selection in an overall MVP-caliber campaign last year, the first baseman often credited Lowrie for his help to better identify pitches and maintain the same swing.

With an influx of younger hitters on the current A’s roster looking to establish themselves at the Major League level, Lowrie looks forward to assisting any hitter who comes up to him seeking advice.

“I love that side of it,” Lowrie said. “I enjoy talking hitting. I’m not the hitting coach, so certainly not going to pretend that I am. But if anyone has questions, I’m always an open book to talk about it.”