Derek Lowe might be ready to hang up his baseball glove, but he’s just getting started with the golf clubs.
The MLB All-Star pitcher will make his American Century Championship debut when the 24th annual event starts Friday at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Club. And lately, with his baseball career winding down, the 25-1 choice has had more time to focus on golf.
“I don’t know how I got released. I had a 9 ERA through the first six weeks,” Lowe joked. “All kidding aside, I haven’t put all that much time and effort into thinking about baseball. You still keep yourself in shape, but I think for the most part you pretty much mentally have accepted where you are.”
Lowe’s retirement plan isn’t set in stone or anything, but after 17 years in the Big Leagues the prolific pitcher said he’s more than likely thrown his last sinker.
“I’ve never been a guy where you have to announce anything,” Lowe said. “I think it’s pretty self apparent if you’re not playing, you’re retired.”
And Lowe is good with that. He’s ready for the next chapter. He’s ready to open the door for something new and create opportunities for up-and-coming players in his wake. He’s happy with what he accomplished — 176 wins, a career 4.03 ERA, a World Series Championship and a healthy 17-year career in the Bigs that hasn’t left him with any nagging injuries.
“I think at any point of anyone’s career, if you can look at yourself in the mirror, say I’ve pretty much done everything I can possibly do, you’re okay with that, I think you’ve had a successful career,” Lowe said. “I was able to do that.”
Lowe turned in the kind of career pitchers dream about, and he did it all without ever getting dragged into the banned-substance bus.
“I think everyone wants a clean game, 100 percent,” Lowe said. “Everyone wants to feel like they’re on the same playing field.”
But as long as the science is out there, Lowe thinks guys will keep trying to find a way.
“Maybe if you made the penalties harder, stiffer, if they lost guaranteed contracts, which probably would never happen, but it doesn’t seem like these 50-game suspensions are putting a complete halt to it, which I think all of us wish would happen,” Lowe said.
Lowe, however, has seen the game change during the past 10 years as the banned substances have slowly started flushing out of MLB.
“I think the home runs are clearly down,” Lowe said. “I see guys throwing harder than they ever have. You look at the majority of these teams’ bullpens, 95 is the norm coming out.
“You look around, there’s unbelievable talent, especially young talent that you never saw before. You didn’t see 10 years ago five, six rookies on a team. It’s great to see now.”
And like Lowe said, making room for that young talent is one of the reasons that retirement sounds reasonable. So for now, taking a swing at the American Century Championship will be Lowe moving into the second stage of his career.
Lowe has never played on the Edgewood course before so he plans on getting to South Lake Tahoe early for some practice and high-altitude adjusting.
“You’re going to do some things you normally don’t do on a golf course, and that’s strictly nerves,” Lowe said. “I’ve never gone to the mound and worried about getting the ball to the plate. There’s times I’ve stepped on the tee box worrying about what direction it’s going to go.”
The nerves that come with playing a new sport in front of thousands can make or break. None of these guys made their living playing golf so being successful at the ACC is all about handling those jitters.
“That’s the one thing I’ve heard,” Lowe said. “It’s almost settling the nerves, finding a way just to play golf.”
And if all else fails, Lowe is blaming Southwest Florida’s weather.
“It rains every day,” Lowe said. “You have to have some excuse.”
New York fans might not be happy, but Lowe thinks benching Matt Harvey on Saturday in light of his All-Star start is the right choice.
“He’s created such a tremendous buzz, rightfully so. Guys want to see him pitch. The city wants to see him pitch,” Lowe said. “If he pitched on Saturday, he might not be able to pitch on Tuesday.
“I think if it didn’t happen, I think people will be disappointed they didn’t get an opportunity to see him pitch. There’s only one start. You have plenty of chances in the second half to go out and see him pitch.”
Looking back on his 17-year career, Lowe said San Francisco was always his favorite place to pitch.
“I think it’s pitcher bias. The park sets up so great to be a pitcher. Seems like it’s always cold at night, high grass,” Lowe said. They’ve obviously found the formula out there.”