ST. PETERSBURG — Coming off a somewhat unexpected and modestly impressive big-league debut at the tail end of last season, Brandon Lowe reported to Rays spring training eager to see what 2019 would bring.
Well, let’s take inventory so far …
He got offered and agreed to in March a life-changing contract, guaranteed $24 million for six years with the potential for $49 million over eight.
He won not only a place on the opening day roster but a key spot often in the middle of the lineup.
He has produced, despite some inconsistency, impressively, leading the Rays with 16 homers and 49 RBIs, as well as unofficial midterm polling for league rookie of the year honors.
And Wednesday, he was added to the American League All-Star team.
“He’s had a good year,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “A lot of things have gone well for Brandon, and by his doing. For a guy, I think he’s kind of fought and earned every opportunity that he’s got.
“Every level he’s been at there’s probably been somebody ahead of him to start opening day. That just shows a lot about him and the person, the way he works and how talented he is.’’
The elation of being named an All-Star was somewhat offset by the pain in Lowe’s right leg, the result of what the Rays hope is only a deep bone bruise from fouling off consecutive pitches on Tuesday against the Orioles.
The injury likely will land him on the injured list Thursday (with Nate Lowe his replacement), which will keep him from playing in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Cleveland, though he is still hoping to go and enjoy the festivities and experience.
Lowe, who turns 25 Saturday, is about as low key as they come. He was joking about how Cash soft-sold the All-Star news when he called him Wednesday afternoon — “He went about it in a very Cash way” — but Lowe’s reaction didn’t red-line the celebration meter either, saying the big upset was that his wife, Madison, believed him when he called to tell her.
Lowe said that he was honored and excited, that making an All-Star team is an “icing on the cake” thing after the main goal of reaching the majors, and that he was most looking forward to getting to meet the big-name stars, such as Mike Trout.
When the All-Star reserves and pitchers were first announced Sunday and Austin Meadows and Charlie Morton were named the Rays’ representatives, Lowe pretty much moved on mentally from the possibility of being picked.
At least until Cash called Lowe as he was on his way for what had been his primary goal of the day: getting through the line to pick up Chick-fil-A — after using the handy app he said “you never go anywhere without out” — for himself and Madison.
“It’s always in your head. You always want to be an All-Star, you always want to be recognized up there,’’ Lowe said. “After it didn’t happen, it was like ‘All right, that wasn’t the goal of the season.’
“But it was nice. I didn’t expect it to happen. There’s a bunch of other second basemen doing really well, too. But I was really excited and thankful for the opportunity.’’
Lowe was named to the team as a replacement for Angels infielder Tommy La Stella, who similarly fouled a ball off his leg Tuesday but broke his tibia and will be out 8-10 weeks. Lowe is the fourth Rays rookie to make the All-Star team, joining Rolando Arrojo (1998), Lance Carter (2003) and Evan Longoria (2008). With Lowe joining Meadows and Morton, who also will be inactive as he is starting Sunday, the Rays will have three reps on the team for the first time since 2011.
“The thing that’s awesome for him personally is that the league is recognizing him,’’ Rays hitting coach Chad Mottola said. “A lot of things have happened here (with the Rays), as (outfielder) Tommy Pham has alluded to, plenty of times that people don’t really pay attention to or discredit it or it’s just easier when everyone is watching a Sunday night game, that there are some special things going on here.
“He’s a low-key guy, and for him to get picked from purely playing alone, it’s pretty awesome for him.’’
With all the good that has happened, Lowe, not surprisingly, remains focused on what’s ahead, and he won’t get anywhere near being surprised at what he has done.
“It’s nice to achieve goals that I’ve set,’’ he said. “It’s nothing short of what I’ve expected out of myself and really happy with our performance so far, and hopefully I can keep building on what I’ve done.”
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.