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Nate Lowe returns to face Rays with a different perspective

Rays Tales | Change has been good for the former first base prospect, and others. Plus, rumblings.
The Texas Rangers' Nate Lowe, left, celebrates his three-run home run with teammate Ronald Guzman during a game against the Royals earlier this month at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
The Texas Rangers' Nate Lowe, left, celebrates his three-run home run with teammate Ronald Guzman during a game against the Royals earlier this month at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. [ ORLIN WAGNER | AP ]
Published Apr. 10
Updated Apr. 10

What Nate Lowe wanted most was a chance.

A chance to be in the majors without the daily uncertainty of being sent back to the minors. And to be in the lineup on a regular basis with the opportunity to make the requisite daily adjustments.

It had become increasingly clear he wasn’t going to get that with the Rays, who had given him 219 at-bats over five stints in 2019-20, during which he hit .251 with 11 homers, 30 RBIs and a .770 OPS and played so-so at best defense at first.

The Rays decided in December they would keep Ji-Man Choi — and his four-plus-times higher salary — and traded Lowe to the Rangers for three low-level, albeit intriguing, minor leaguers (Heriberto Hernandez, Osleivis Basabe, Alexander Ovalles).

And like other things in Texas, the opportunity for Lowe was bigger.

Lowe has started each of the Rangers’ first seven games, with hits and RBIs in the first five. He went into play Friday — where none of the Rangers did anything as they got no-hit by San Diego’s Joe Musgrove — leading the majors with 14 RBIs.

Of note, he was only the third player in modern history to knock in 14 runs in his team’s first five games — joining Chris Davis (17 for the 2013 Orioles) and Bobby Doerr (14 for the 1941 Red Sox).

“It’s exciting, man,” Lowe said Friday by phone from Texas. “It’s great to see some results right off the bat instead of having to wait around and feel for it and hoping to add it.”

Lowe said the Rangers made it clear after the trade they planned to give him an opportunity, and followed through, starting him four times at first base and three at DH, batting him in the middle of the order.

“They’ve been so positive for me, they’ve been so good about telling me, you’re going to get a shot to contribute, you’re going to be a guy that helps the offense,” he said. “Fortunately I’ve been able to run with it.”

That run brings Lowe back to Tropicana Field next, as the Rangers open a four-game series with the Rays on Monday.

Lowe, 25, said he is looking forward to it. Not to gloat, but to say hello to the players, coaches, athletics trainers and staff he’s known since 2016, when he was a 13th-round pick.

And, in a way, to thank them, for giving him the chance to get an opportunity elsewhere.

“That’s just one of the positives that could be a negative of being in an organization so deep talent-wise,” Lowe said. “It goes to show guys who may not be everyday players in Tampa (Bay) deserve a shot to be everyday guys elsewhere.

“So it looks good on Tampa, it looks good on Texas, and it looks good on me.”

Lowe, whose younger brother Josh is a Rays outfield prospect currently working out at the alternate training site in Port Charlotte, said he’s not into looking for revenge. But getting a few more hits and adding to his hot start would be okay, too.

“Definitely would not mind,” he said.

Checking in

How some players the Rays parted ways with after 2020 are doing:

Pos Player New team, how acquired

LHP Jose Alvarado Phillies, three-way trade with Dodgers

Report: 1-0, 3.00 in 3 games; weighs less, throws more strikes (7 Ks of 15 batters)

RHP John Curtiss Marlins, trade for minor-leaguer

Report: 0-0, 6.75 in 3 games, allowing 2 homers over 2-2/3 innings

LHP Aaron Loup Mets, 1-year, $3 million deal as free agent

Report: 0-0, 0.00 in 1 game; key role but limited opportunity so far

1B Nate Lowe Rangers, trade for three minor-leaguers

Report: .320, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs in 6 games, taking advantage of trade opportunity

RHP Charlie Morton Braves, one-year, $15 million free agent deal

Report: 1-1, 3.27 in 2 games; worked 5 and 6 sold innings vs. Phillies

C Michael Perez Pirates, claimed off waivers

Report: .000-0-0 in 3 games, 5 Ks in 9 at-bats as backup

OF Hunter Renfroe Red Sox, $3.1 million free-agent deal

Report: .158-0-1 in five game, getting ample playing time

RHP Aaron Slegers Angels, traded for player to be named

Report: 0-0, 2.25 in 4 games, 6 hits, 5 Ks to 17 batters faced

LHP Blake Snell Padres, traded for four players

Report: 0-0, 1.86 in 2 games; worked 4-2/3 innings and 5

Short stops

• Given the number of bullpen injuries, the Rays’ commitment to stick to their plan to develop young power arms such as Shane McClanahan and Luis Patino as starters is to be either further admired, or questioned.

• If there can be a rugged early part of the schedule, this is it: Friday opened a stretch of 36 games in 38 days for the Rays, including nine against the Yankees, seven vs. the A’s and series with the Astros, Angels, Jays and Mets.

• Shortly before taking leave from the team to get “time away from the game,” reliever Ryan Sherriff said he was talking extensively with Justin Su’a, head of mental performance, about going into that field after he’s done playing.

Rays rumblings

Forbes’ annual franchise valuations pegged the Rays at $1.055 billion, 29th overall, and the only team to not go up from 2020, with annual revenues of $112 million (19th-most) and a 2020 operating loss of $23 million (tied for third lowest). Officials with several teams typically dispute the findings. …. Player rep Tyler Glasnow said the athletic training staff is “doing a good job” arranging COVID-19 vaccine shots for those who want them, with the 85-percent standard for relaxed protocols in sight. … Friday also opened a stretch of 17 of 23 games at the Trop (including 11 when the Blue Jays are also “home” in Dunedin). … Best wishes to now former communications VP Dave Haller, who moves to the northern Virginia area to join a family landscaping/patio business after 14 years dealing with occasionally rock-headed media … Normally hyperactive outfielder Brett Phillips on how he handled being idled for weeks recovering from a hamstring strain: “You can only imagine, right?” … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg was on the Bally Sports telecast during Friday’s fourth-inning rally and did a good job making “the call” of Brandon Lowe’s bases-clearing double. Sternberg heaped praise on the job broadcasters Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson do, saying they know “it’s a relief and a comfort and a lot of joy for all of our fans” to hear them call the games. … Gio Llorena left his post as the Rays chaplain to move to North Carolina, with D.J. Springman, the former coach at Indian Rocks Christian, taking over. …. Catcher Deivy Grullon, claimed off waivers from the Reds, was an interesting pickup at a low acquisition cost, with 42 homers in 198 games over his last minor-league seasons. … Among even more former Rays, early signs for an Alex Cobb renaissance after being traded from the Orioles to Angels are good, with his mix of splitter, curveball and a fastball back to 92-94 mph: “Kind of like the stuff you saw at the Trop a few years ago,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Same competitive guy. Good influence on others. A pleasure to be around him again.”

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