It's not that the Red Sox third baseman has an aversion to the ball meeting the glove -- it's the ball meeting the socket in his hip that's the problem. Lowell's torn hip labrum is causing the joint to catch and, as Sox fans can observe and he himself confirmed to reporters, it's limiting his mobility.
"It bothers me every time I run and make a few steps defensively," Lowell said. "It's more of a grab and a nag, as opposed to excruciating pain. Just uncomfortable, very uncomfortable. I'd prefer not having it."
The discomfort caused Lowell to miss a game in Tampa Bay but, unlike the labrum tear in Curt Schilling's shoulder which ended the pitcher's season, it is not expected to force the third baseman to shut things down. That's because the ramifications of continuing to play with a shoulder labral tear are more pronounced, according to Dr. Arun Ramappa, Chief of Sports Medicine in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. What it comes down to is a job description.
"The hip and shoulder are both ball and socket joints, but they are performing widely different tasks in a baseball game," Dr. Ramappa explained. "When a Major League pitcher delivers a baseball at over 90 miles an hour, it causes a tremendous amount of stress -- you could say unnatural -- on the shoulder. A small tear can easily become a much bigger tear. On the other hand, batting, running and fielding require the hip to twist and flex, but usually within the limits that it was designed to handle. The hip can deal with it a little better."
Dr. Ramappa also points out that in Lowell's case, some days will likely be better than others. He used the example of having a pebble in your shoe. Sometimes you can deal with it until you get where you're going. Other times you have to stop and take off your shoe.
"Our understanding of this type of injury has improved over the last several years. It's now more recognized as a real cause of disability and loss of performance," Dr. Ramappa said, adding there are also better techniques now to diagnose and treat these injuries. "It wasn't that long ago that it was thought that you couldn't perform an arthroscopy on the hip because the joint was so deep and there were so many structures around it that need to be protected. Today, patients have a better chance of having the injury diagnosed correctly, treated appropriately and rehabbed successfully."
Lowell is optimistic about avoiding the DL for the rest of the season, but he is aware that a visit to the OR may be in the offing. The good news is that recovery from hip labrum surgery is not as protracted as shoulder labrum surgery.
No, it won't be as simple as removing a pebble from a shoe, but chances are he'll be back in his spikes and running out to third ... without a catch.
Gary Gillis is a contributor to MLB.com. The BID Injury Report is a regular column on redsox.com. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is the official hospital of The Boston Red Sox. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.