ST. PETERSBURG — His moment came and passed. A big contract in the spring, Rookie of the Year consideration by summer, and all but forgotten before the start of fall.
This was the baseball season he had spent a lifetime waiting for, and it had wantonly left Brandon Lowe behind. He was done. Finished. Kaput.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said in August that Lowe’s season was over for all practical purposes. If he somehow came back, the Rays would consider it a bonus.
Well, bonus time reached the back wall of Tropicana Field Monday night.
Two months after he whacked a foul ball off his shin, and one month after he strained his quadriceps during a rehab assignment, Lowe blasted one of Tampa Bay’s most majestic home runs of the season in a 7-4 victory against the Red Sox.
Lowe took a 3-1 fastball from Jhoulys Chacin and cranked it 441 feet off the Moffitt Cancer Center sign down the rightfield line, helping the Rays turn a 4-0 deficit into a 6-4 lead in the fourth inning.
When told it was one of the rare balls to ever reach the back wall, Lowe grinned.
“That’s good,’’ he said. “Because that was everything I own.’’
Every injury is inconvenient. This one was also cruel.
Everything Lowe had worked for was coming together in one blissful summer of baseball. He was leading the Rays in home runs and RBI in July. He was a substitute selection for the AL All-Star team, and he was outperforming then-Rookie of the Year frontrunners Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez.
Lowe reached July 2 with near replica numbers (.276, 16 HR, 49 RBI) as Evan Longoria (.275, 15 HR, 50 RBI) had at the same moment during his Rookie of the Year season in 2008.
All of that ended when he cracked a pitch off his right shin, and tried to hobble to first base in excruciating pain.
The bone bruise would keep him out for more than a month before he started rehabbing with the Rays’ Gulf Coast League team. Then came a brief stint at Class A Charlotte before a final warmup at Triple-A Durham. But in his second game at Durham, Lowe strained his quad running to first base.
MRI results suggested he wouldn’t have time to make it back.
The day of the MRI, Lowe met with everyone on the training staff right down to the team nutritionist to figure out his next step.
“I told them I was prepared to do whatever I had to do to make it back,’’ he said.
The minor league season had mostly come and gone by the time Lowe was ready to work himself back into shape, so he had never-ending batting practice sessions with elbow rehab patient Yonny Chirinos and a handful of instructional league pitchers
“Those at-bats are not fun. To drive down to Port Charlotte and face some young kid throwing 98 mph, you don’t know if it’s going to be down and away or at your neck,’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He went through it, did all that, kept his timing in check and now he’s helping us.’’
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He got back in the lineup for the first time on Sunday, and rapped a single to left field in his first at-bat. When he reached the base, he was fair game for first base coach Ozzie Timmons.
“Ozzie came up to me and was like, 'Hey, by the way, you’re on first base. You have to look at signs and stuff like that,’ ’’ Lowe said. “I was like, 'Yeah, you’re right. It’s been a while.’ ’’
Lowe had begun his Monday by attending the Rays Clutch Hitters luncheon banquet where he received the team’s Rookie of the Year award. Hours later he was asked about the award’s significance.
“Incredible,’’ he said. “A great honor.’’
So did it make up for all the time he missed?
“It feels better to just beat the odds and get back out on the field.’’
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.