That wasn't the case on Friday, when Lowell played in the first game of a three-game rehabilitation assignment with the Pawtucket Red Sox.
"I was actually happy about recognizing pitches," Lowell said after Pawtucket defeated the Syracuse Chiefs, 6-1. "I saw a lot of different pitches and squared up a couple of balls, so that was good.
"Overall, I don't think there was anything negative, so I think that's good."
Lowell was placed on Boston's disabled list April 10 with a sprained left thumb. He injured his thumb while diving for a ground ball at third base in an April 9 game against Detroit.
He was Pawtucket's designated hitter Friday, and batted third. He's scheduled to play third base Saturday night at Buffalo, and will DH on Sunday afternoon in the last game of an abbreviated series against the Bisons.
Lowell was retired on a broken-bat popup to shortstop Jorge Velandia by Syracuse right-hander Kane Davis in the first inning.
Pawtucket loaded the bases with two outs in the second, and Lowell lined a 3-1 pitch to center for a two-run single that gave the PawSox a 4-0 lead.
"How exciting was that when he came up with the bases loaded?" manager Ron Johnson inquired. "I've got a guy with a 120 RBIs last year and he's up with the bases loaded. And he didn't let us down."
Lowell flied out to center on an 0-1 pitch against righty reliever Mike MacDonald in the fifth.
Then, with runners on first and second and two outs in the fifth, Lowell fouled out on the first pitch to third baseman Hector Luna.
Lowell completed his night's work by popping out to second baseman Pedro Lopez on a 1-0 pitch by right-hander Tracey Thorpe in the eighth.
Lowell said he didn't have any trouble "gripping the bat," which was noteworthy considering the nature of his injury.
"I didn't really expect [to have trouble gripping the bat]," Lowell said. "Actually, I got jammed on the last at-bat, which I think was a good test. I didn't really feel anything, so that was good."
Lowell, in retrospect, admitted he might have changed his approach and not taken the first pitch in his first three at-bats.
"My first three at-bats I purposely took the first pitch to see pitches," he said. "All three were strikes, so I wanted to give up on that philosophy. I don't really like to hit 0-1 every time.
"The second and third at-bats I was very happy with. I laid off pitches that were kind of close and swung at the pitch I wanted to. I think any time you have the bases loaded [like in the second] and you put good wood on it, especially with two outs, you've got to be satisfied with that."
Lowell was hitting .200 (6-for-30) in nine games with Boston before he sprained his thumb and was placed on the disabled list.
"For the most part, I had good at-bats," Lowell said. "I had two decent ones. But a good at-bat for me, at least, isn't the end result. I think it was more how I felt seeing pitches. I didn't feel like I was jumpy at all. And I think you tend to do that when you haven't seen pitches.
"You want to go after it," he continued. "In that sense, my pitch recognition was very good. I actually swung at the pitches I wanted to swing at, except for that foul popup to third. That ball was too far in, but the other ones were pitches that if I look back, those are the pitches I want to swing at in that at-bat."
Johnson expressed his pleasure at the way Lowell conducted himself on and off the field.
"He's such a great example for everybody," he said. "This guy is the ultimate professional. Just for everybody to watch and see how he goes about his business is impressive."
Mike Scandura is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.