Lowell officially ruled out of Classic

Lowell officially ruled out of Classic

BOSTON -- Though it seemed highly unlikely given his rehab schedule from right hip surgery, Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell officially learned earlier this week that he will not be eligible to play for Puerto Rico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Lowell was on Puerto Rico's provisional roster, which was released last week. However, WEEI.com reported that Lowell received an official letter on Tuesday from Puerto Rico general manager Lou Melendez stating that he will not be eligible to play, both because of a request made by the Red Sox and the fact that he wouldn't meet some of the levels of criteria used to determine eligibility.

Teams have the right to request that players coming off of surgery or significant injury be held out of the World Baseball Classic. Normally, the decision rests entirely with the player.

When Puerto Rico plays its first World Baseball Classic game on March 7, there is chance that Lowell still won't be game-ready. The third baseman does plan on being in the lineup on April 6, when the Red Sox open their 2009 season.

Playing in the World Baseball Classic would have been a meaningful experience for Lowell, mainly because his father Carl, a former pitcher, was a legend for Puerto Rico on the international stage.

Lowell also didn't play in the 2006 World Baseball Classic because he was coming off the worst season of his career and was focused on getting off to a strong start with his new team, the Red Sox.

Lowell's right hip bothered him throughout the second half of the 2008 season. He finally had to shut it down during the postseason, being left off the American League Championship Series roster.

The day after the Red Sox were eliminated in Game 7, Lowell had surgery in which two bony lesions and a tiny portion of his labrum were removed from his hip.

Lowell's recovery is said to be going well and the Red Sox are optimistic he will make a strong comeback for 2009.

In fact, Lowell, according to WEEI.com, took 50 swings off a tee on Tuesday, marking the first time he has swung a bat since his surgery.

2009 Rosters

Despite Lowell's absence from the international showcase, the Red Sox will have a strong representation at the Classic. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis (United States), Daisuke Matsuzaka (Japan), Jason Bay (Canada) and David Ortiz (Dominican Republic) are among those expected to play. Left-hander Hideki Okajima was on Japan's provisional roster, but he isn't expected to play.

The Red Sox are leery of any pitchers participating in the Classic, though they understood how important it was for Japan for Matsuzaka -- a national icon and MVP of the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 -- to play.

Like Lowell, Red Sox reliever Takashi Saito won't play in the World Baseball Classic because he is coming off a significant injury.

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