Lowell returns to Boston, reflects on retirement

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Lowell returns to Boston, reflects on retirement

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Former Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, in Boston with his family, visited Fenway Park Friday for the first time since retiring at the end of last season. It was as much to satisfy a request of his two children as it was to catch up with his former teammates.

I think after it was kind of in November-ish, Lowell said. My kids asked me, Are we ever going to come back to Boston? because I told them we were selling the apartment. I said, yeah, we were going to come in the summer. So we kind of looked at the schedule and this was put in there about six months ago and its been nice. Took advantage, had a nice dinner with Dustin Pedroia last night. He brought me up to speed. He still thinks hes going to kill everyone. Four more hits tonight. So, thats good. But yeah the kids are good and were enjoying it. I didnt know we were going to get Miami weather here in Boston. Its been good though.

Although he looks fit, and he said his surgically repaired right hip is feeling good, Lowell, who turned 37 in February, is happy with his decision to retire after 13 seasons and two World Series championships.

Well, my hip feels so good right now that I feel like if I had to play, I could, he said. But Im just really satisfied that after another surgery with how well Im moving around. I can jog. I can run. And that was a big thing So from that standpoint, just from my life standpoint, it feels really good. Been able to enjoy the summer. It was weird with the free time. But its been fun. Ive really enjoyed it. I think I miss coming to a challenge every day. Its kind of what Ive known for the better part of 17 years. I miss my friends. Youre in the same grind together. But Im still at peace with my decision. So I think I made the right one.

For now, his baseball activities are limited to coaching his sons 6-year-old T-ball team. Mike Redmond, with whom Lowell played in Florida, is now managing the Lansing Lugnuts, a Single-A affiliate of the Blue Jays. Lowell recently visited Redmond, whose last season was also last year. While Lowell respects the work Redmond is doing, he doesnt see it in his future.

I think if youre going to do something like that, it deserves a lot of time, Lowell said. Im not willing to do that at this point in my life. I dont know. I played around with the MLB network. Im going to do a little more of that. And thats actually fun for me. So, I think in that sense it keeps me in the loop. I still get to follow the game and try to sound educated when I talk about it.

Although Lowell won World Series titles with both the Marlins, in 2003, and Red Sox, in 2007, he doesnt assign himself to either team. He just considers himself an ex-ballplayer.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''