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Lowell may not start in Braves series

Lowell may not start in Braves series

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ATLANTA -- His surgically repaired right hip still tight, Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell was out of the lineup for the fourth time in the past six games on Friday night against the Braves. In fact, don't be surprised if Kevin Youkilis starts all three games this weekend at third, with David Ortiz playing first and Lowell on the bench.

Lowell sounded as if he was expecting to get a lubricating shot called Synvisc in a few days, perhaps by Monday. The shot has such a quick recovery that Lowell -- under that scenario -- could conceivably be back in the lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Lowell originally hoped to wait until July 2 -- Boston's next off-day -- to get the shot. But the lingering tightness will likely push it up a few days.

"From what the trainers tell me, this could be a really big jump to calming everything down," said Lowell. "What I think I have is something that flared up. I don't think I really have anything structurally wrong. Maybe the little muscles and tendons are weakened a little. Dr. [Bryan] Kelly and our guys don't believe there is anything structurally wrong. I think that's good."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona sat Lowell last Saturday and Sunday at Fenway Park against the Braves, and the team was off on Monday. Lowell returned to the lineup on Tuesday, and also started Thursday, but he didn't feel any improvement from the rest he received.

"I feel tight," said Lowell. "We're kind of searching for things to kind of loosen it up. They said it would be four or five days, and I think we've gone a little bit over that. I really haven't seen the improvement that all of us wanted to. Obviously, I'm not starting today, and we'll see through this weekend, see what we do. I guess it's how I wake up tomorrow, but honestly, I'm not predicting a miraculous, 'I feel 100 percent tomorrow morning.'"

With the Red Sox playing under National League rules and forced to take one big bat out of the lineup anyhow, it was much easier for Francona and Lowell to play it safe this weekend.

"When I take a swing in the game, I really don't feel pain," said Lowell. "It's more just getting out of the box and running. But yeah, I do think it's easier when someone's got to sit, and David is swinging a good bat, Youk has been swinging a good bat all year. I think that makes it a little easier."

Though Lowell said he'd be more than happy to pinch-hit over the weekend, Francona didn't sound like he would force the issue.

"What I don't want to do is put him in to pinch-hit and have him have to run and not make any gains," Francona said. "If we're not going to play him, I want him to feel better, so we'll see how it goes."

After a solid first two months at the plate, Lowell is hitting .209 in June, with two homers and six RBIs. But he thinks that is merely a slump and not a case of his hip affecting his bat.

"I wish I could blame every time I make an out on something," said Lowell. "But I don't really think I can."

Lowell said the type of discomfort he is having now does not compare with the agony he was in late last season and into the postseason, when he was playing with a torn labrum in his hip.

"I don't have the super sharp sensation that I had last year, especially the check swing, which was the worst," said Lowell. "I've never felt that. I think if I did, we'd have major problems, because that's the part that we fixed with the surgery. I talked to Dr. Kelly, who operated on me, and obviously Pete Asnis, and they're all saying that it's normal. They don't seem worried at all about it."

Is Lowell worried?

"I don't know if I'm worried, I think I'm a little frustrated," said Lowell. "I think things were going so good for like these first 60 games and then I just woke up one morning and felt really tight. I thought, 'I'll play through it,' and it really hasn't gone away. I think that's frustrating. I think I take confidence in them saying it's something they expected. If this kind of caught them off guard, I think I'd be more on the worried side than on the frustrated side."

At this point, Lowell doesn't expect to be forced to the disabled list. The hope is that the shot -- assuming he gets it -- will do the trick.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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