It’s all about the process for Nate Lowe, but that process didn’t seem conducive to making the Rangers' Opening Day roster through the first few weeks of Spring Training.
But Lowe -- whom the Rangers traded for on Dec. 10 -- said he traditionally takes a lot of pitches early in Spring Training in order to work on his plate discipline. It was something he worked on with his hitting coaches with the Rays and he brought it to camp with him.
He admitted it was something he was uncomfortable with at first, too.
“I know it's kind of tough looking sometimes and definitely difficult as a teammate, or as a fan, to watch all three strikes,” Lowe said. “But if you don't have plate discipline, you don't have the ability to see the ball and then you can't hit it. It made a whole lot of sense. It doesn't really look pretty on the outside at all, but the most important part is that you're ready for Opening Day, so that's definitely part of the process.”
Manager Chris Woodward admits he was a bit concerned when he heard Lowe was taking pitches on purpose, but once he understood the plan, he liked the approach to improve his control of the strike zone.
Once Woodward began to recognize Lowe’s process -- meaning he wasn’t just taking pitches down the middle carelessly -- he bought in. Woodward points out that one of Lowe’s best qualities is that he has a calmness about him in the box and he never panics in any situation.
“It actually helps to see more pitches,” Woodward said. “Your brain and your mind need to see pitches over and over again. Some guys may hit 10 home runs in 20 at-bats, but they're not seeing the sliders and the breaking balls and the changeups out of the hand. They’re not feeling the anxiety of the bat with two strikes. I appreciate Nate's philosophy on it. Honestly, we've had a dialogue about it.”
After starting the season 4-for-25, Lowe began gaining some momentum against the Mariners on Saturday, when he hit his first home run of the spring amid a 2-for-3 night at the plate. Woodward said Lowe has been working on swinging more at this point in the spring, but is not chasing balls out of the zone and is putting some two-strike pitches in play.
His slash line now sits at .207/.294/.414 after a two-walk game in Monday's 5-4 loss to the Rockies.
Woodward believes Lowe is trending upward at the right time, which is necessary as his fellow competitor at first base, Ronald Guzmán, got off to a hotter start at the plate this spring.
Guzmán had hits in four of his first five Cactus Leagues appearances and has nine hits in 12 games overall, ranking third on the team with three home runs. Woodward said both guys are confident going into the final weeks of Spring Training.
Lowe said he didn’t come into camp expecting to have the starting spot handed to him and has enjoyed the competition with Guzmán throughout camp.
“[Guzmán] is a great player and he's a great teammate,” Lowe said. “He's been great to me. Whatever is going to happen, whatever is going to help the team win is what we're going to roll with. I totally understand it, but if he gets a full share of at-bats or if I get it or we go back and forth. Whoever gets the hammer is going to go out and perform.”