Given fresh start, Lowe makes immediate impact

Given fresh start, Lowe makes immediate impact

Given fresh start, Lowe makes immediate impact
NEW YORK -- Derek Lowe knew his time in Cleveland was nearing its end as struggles persisted over his past 10 starts. The sinkerballer knew there were mechanical changes he needed to make, but the only way the newest Yankees reliever could describe the feeling as his pitches left his right hand was that they were "coming out like mashed potatoes."

"It had gravy on it this time," Lowe said Monday after his Bombers debut.

Lowe pitched four scoreless innings against the Rangers in an 8-2 win, 11 days after the Indians designated him for assignment and three days after they released him. The right-hander allowed two hits and struck out four, earning his first regular-season save since 2001, when he closed 24 games for the Red Sox, though this one was admittedly "cheap," the result of pitching the game's final four frames.

"I don't know how they even categorize that as a save, but they do," said Lowe, who threw 44 pitches, 33 for strikes. "But it couldn't have gone any better. I'm not going to lie to you and say I'm not going to sleep with a smile tonight. It's a pretty fun way to start your career here."

The Yankees envision Lowe in the role he debuted in -- a long reliever for the middle innings. But the last time Lowe moved to the bullpen after prolonged struggles in the rotation, he found himself once again starting for the Red Sox in the 2004 American League Championship Series against New York, and believing he can still start, he would welcome a similar move.

But Lowe was 31 years old then, only two years removed from an All-Star appearance as a starter, and four years removed from a 42-save season.

Now he is 39 with a 5.34 ERA.

He was designated for assignment for the first time in his 16-year career -- the past 11 as a starter -- but took the 10-day window without a team as an opportunity to focus on himself. He immediately took to making mechanical changes both he and former Indians pitching coach Scott Radinsky knew were needed in Cleveland, but did not have the time for during side sessions as struggles prompted them to skip bullpen sessions altogether. But he also returned to Fort Myers, Fla., where he watched film from his Dodgers years with Orioles rehab pitching coordinator and personal pitching coach Chris Correnti, and the career "tinkerer" did just that, trying to regain deception to account for his waning velocity.

"You go on a 10-day kind of sit-around-and-do-nothing stage, but I needed it," said Lowe, who has made 279 relief appearances and 377 starts. "I was not going to come back and pitch if I couldn't get myself figured out, but what makes it easier is that I've always been a tinkerer. So it didn't take a long time, just a good two or three days of hard work, looking at video and realizing what you have to do."

The results were immediately evident.

"That was the same guy that I caught in L.A.," Russell Martin said.

"He saved our bullpen there," said manager Joe Girardi. "A tremendous job on his part."

Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco all contacted Lowe's agent, Scott Boras, about the right-hander after the Indians released him.

"Then this came," Lowe said, "and we weren't going to pass on it."

Boras struck a deal with the Yankees in "literally about 10 minutes," according to Lowe, who spoke to pitching coach Larry Rothschild on Sunday before his arrival.

He arrived feeling refreshed, promising himself during his brief time away that he would not join a team unless he fixed whatever caused him to be a "way-overpaid batting practice pitcher" in Cleveland, and happy to be back in a pennant race.

"It doesn't matter how you feel throwing bullpens in Fort Myers. You want to get out here and see what you were working on put to work," Lowe said. "I had to get back to hiding the ball a little bit better, and so far, so good."