No off-day, off week or off month is going to prevent the fact that the torn labrum in his right hip can only be fixed by surgery.
In that sense, Lowell has no business being on the baseball field right now.
"What he's going through," manager Terry Francona said, "he's going to pay for this later. He knows that."
This is true. But Lowell also can't avoid another unshakable truth: His desire to contribute to the Red Sox's postseason run far outweighs the excruciating pain his hip provides.
"I just love to play, man," said Lowell. "I really do. When you're putting yourself in those imaginary positions when you're 7 or 8 years old ... you always say you're in the postseason. If you pretend you're in that situation when you're a kid, I don't see any reason why you should shy away from that when you get the chance to do it as an adult."
So with the blessing of his manager, there Lowell was Wednesday night, in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Angels.
It was a performance that was gritty, not pretty.
Gutting it out
|In the 2003 playoffs with the Marlins, Mike Lowell batted .196 while dealing with a broken right hand. Last season with the Red Sox, the third baseman posted a .353 postseason average and was named the Worlds Series MVP.|
Lowell's mobility in the field is hampered by the hip, yet he manned his position without incident in the Red Sox's 4-1 victory. At the plate, he'd be the first to admit his timing is off, and he backed that up by going 0-for-4.
It was the kind of game one might expect from a guy who missed all but 12 games from Aug. 13 through the end of the regular season and had notched just one at-bat since Sept. 16.
Asked to rate how he felt, relative to his expectations, Lowell simply said, "I guess you could say I was happy that we got through the game and we won."
Not exactly a response that infers physical well-being.
As a result, Lowell's status for Game 2 on Friday night is uncertain. Francona indicated that he is considering resting Lowell in Game 2 and using him in Game 3 on Sunday in Fenway Park, against left-hander Joe Saunders.
"It's actually a very difficult decision for me," Francona said. "You've got a guy [in Lowell] that's the ultimate gamer and will go out there every day."
Lowell has had to play through pain before -- most notably when he played with a broken hand during the 2003 postseason and hit just .196 during the Marlins' run to the World Series title.
Not even that compares with this, he said.
"This is the worst pain I've played through," he said. "Hands-down."
But Francona was willing to let Lowell play through it Wednesday, largely because of the defensive help Lowell can presumably provide against a frisky Angels offense.
And by stepping on the field, Lowell has earned even greater respect from those in the Red Sox's clubhouse.
"It means a lot to his teammates," catcher and team captain Jason Varitek said. "It's a big part of who he is and what he means to this team. He loves to play. He understands the value of having this opportunity to play in the postseason."
Lowell, however, also knows he's of no use to this club if he can't perform up to par. Francona said he's been impressed with the way Lowell has been "realistic" throughout this process, telling the coaching staff he'll only play if he feels he's capable of contributing.
"I don't think there's any other way," Lowell said. "I'm not going to be an idiot and lie to them or do something that's detrimental to the team."
Can Lowell play through the pain well enough to make a meaningful contribution this October?
That question, ultimately, rests with Francona, who has to fill out the lineup card.
"There are decisions we need to still make," Francona said of the Game 2 lineup, "and I haven't actually come to a conclusion yet."
While Lowell's playing status will be a day-to-day debate from here on out, his desire to fight through the pain will not waver.
"This is what I've wanted to do my whole life," he said. "Playing for the Marlins, except for one year, we didn't have this opportunity. So I don't know how many opportunities I'm going to have. If I can be on the field, I want to play. [I'm going to do] whatever it takes."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.