Lowell intends to return this weekend

Lowell intends to return this weekend

BOSTON -- It's not always the case at this juncture of a long baseball season, but Mike Lowell was sure eager to begin his pregame routine on Thursday.

"I'm really excited for batting practice," Lowell said. "Usually, we don't get too excited for batting practice, but I'm really excited for batting practice today."

The third baseman's enthusiasm is well warranted. He hasn't played since Sept. 16 against the Rays, as he is still fighting pain from a partially torn labrum in his right hip, an injury that will require postseason surgery. He took batting practice on Thursday with the full intent that he'll find himself back in the lineup over the weekend.

The plan, according to manager Terry Francona, is to use Lowell as the designated hitter on Friday before getting him in at third on Sunday.

Despite Lowell's nagging injury, which has plagued him for much of the season, his presence is paramount in the infield as the Red Sox head into the postseason. His 2007 World Series MVP Award speaks volumes to that.

The 34-year-old Lowell admits that he is battling lateral movements in the field and certainly cannot afford a setback before the playoffs begin next week.

"We've gone on the cautious side, which at this point in the season is probably the intelligent way to do it," Lowell said.

Just in case, the Sox are taking necessary precautions to make sure their infield has a little help down the stretch, purchasing the contract of Gil Velazquez from Triple-A Pawtucket. Velazquez was added to the 40-man roster in place of Bartolo Colon, who was moved from the suspended list to the restricted list. That means Colon will not be eligible to pitch again this season.

Francona said that the team asked Velazquez to head to the instructional league in Fort Myers, Fla., last week. Colon's removal from the 40-man roster allowed Velazquez -- who hit .260 with the PawSox in 2008 -- to join the team.

"If something happened in the playoffs and we had to activate Gil, he'd be coming from Fort Myers not being around us or the Major Leagues," Francona said. "[This way], he'll have been around here, and won't have the butterflies."

Velazquez found playing time quickly, making his Major League debut on Thursday. He entered in the sixth inning of Boston's 6-1 win over Cleveland, pinch-running for Alex Cora after Cora left the game with a right hip contusion. Velazquez played shortstop for the remainder of the game.

Velazquez said that the experience was beyond exciting.

"Actually, it was more than that," Velazquez said. "It was in Boston, so you can't ask for any more than that. ... After so many years in the Minors, it was like, 'Finally.' "

Still, Lowell's imminent return is the main concern. Even though he's missed time, he's confident he can make a seamless return.

"As far as the routine factor, I'd like to get a couple at-bats," Lowell said. "But I'm not really too curious. It's the end of the year. If it was April, I think things would be different."

Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.