Notes: Lowell knew he was staying put

Notes: Lowell knew he was staying put

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mike Lowell might have been a free agent for a few fleeting weeks in November, but the Most Valuable Player of the 2007 World Series is now rather up front about the fact that he wasn't going anywhere.

The only way he would've left is if the Red Sox had blatantly made him an offer below market value. That never happened, so, at least in Lowell's mind, it became just a formality that he would re-sign once his agents and the Red Sox finished up the business side of things.

"I wanted to take it step by step," said Lowell. "I had never really been a free agent. I think after the initial offer by the Red Sox, I knew we were in the ballpark. Honestly, I think my only fear would have been if they said, 'Two years or nothing.' Then I think it might have gotten tough, just because I think the guarantee is big in this sport. If it would have been four years as opposed to two, I think I would have had to think about it a lot more."

The way it turned out, Lowell took Boston's three-year offer instead of potential four-year deals from the Phillies and Dodgers.

To Lowell, it was a matter of the heart, not his bank account.

"The fans were a major, major factor in my signing," said Lowell. "It's definitely encouraging when you get the support of the people you play in front of. I've said it from Day 1, I love playing in Fenway."

After driving in 120 runs last year and hitting .324, Lowell seems primed to prove that he can approach that same type of season again.

"Personally, I don't think it's going to be tough," said Lowell. "I'm not talking specific numbers, but I just think a lot of things fell in place. I think I used similar measures to prepare. I hope to be consistent. What that entails, with Manny [Ramirez] and David [Ortiz] hitting in front of me, if they hit 50 home runs each, I'm not going to drive in as many runs. It's a numbers game. But if I'm healthy and I'm consistent, I feel like I can contribute."

Count Ortiz among the many Boston players thrilled to have Lowell back in the fold.

"Mikey is confident, he knows he belongs to this team and he'll be here for a while," Ortiz said. "Hopefully he'll finish his career here. He knows how everything rolls around here. I'm pretty sure he's going to have an even better season through the years."

Pitching plans: Red Sox manager Terry Francona outlined his pitching plans for the first batch of exhibition games. Ace Josh Beckett will be first out of the gate when he goes against Boston College in Game 1 of the Feb. 28 college doubleheader. Prospect Justin Masterson will take the ball in the nightcap against Northeastern.

Daisuke Matsuzaka will open his Spring Training with a short road trip to the other side of Fort Myers to face the Twins on Feb. 29. The next two days -- also against the Twins -- it will be Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield. Julian Tavarez and Clay Buchholz, who are vying for spots in the rotation, will piggyback Lester and Wakefield, respectively, in their first appearances.

Casey's meet and greet: Backup first baseman Sean Casey, who could wind up being the only player on the Opening Day roster who didn't play for the 2007 Red Sox, made his first appearance in camp. Ortiz commemorated the occasion by literally leaping up and then landing on Casey, before putting him in a bear hug outside the batting cage.

"I thought I was in WWE wrestling or something," said Casey. "I didn't know what to think. That's what you love about him, he brings so much energy wherever he is."

The same is true of Casey, who seems to be friends with just about every player in Major League Baseball.

Francona and Casey became familiar with each other while working at a Cal Ripken fantasy camp a few years back.

"I said, 'If there's a day that I see you change, I will personally kick your [butt].' Because, to me, he was the perfect player," said Francona. "A smile from ear to ear. Treats everybody like they're the most important person in the world. Respects the game, and hits .300. He's a good kid."

Lugo stays positive: Though Julio Lugo struggled mightily from a statistical standpoint in his first year in Boston, the shortstop says he never dwelled on his individual predicament.

"We won the World Series," said Lugo. "Everything that I worked for, everything I went through, that's the payoff, so I don't mind."

Full house: By the end of Wednesday's reporting day, the only player who hadn't made an appearance at camp was outfielder Bobby Kielty. That's because Kielty has an excused absence to be there for the birth of his child. Kielty is expected to report to camp on Saturday.

Position players will undergo physicals on Thursday morning and then go through some conditioning workouts in the afternoon. The first full-squad workout is Friday morning, and it will take place after a team meeting.

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