In 1998 he had heard the rumors regarding the possibility of the New York Yankees sending the then-minor league third baseman, along with Ricky Ledee and Ramiro Mendoza, to Seattle for Randy Johnson. There was also a smattering of hints regarding a possible relocation from Florida to the Cubs before Florida made its memorable 2003 run to the World Series.
And then came this week's whirlwind of speculation, centering around the premise that the Red Sox would ship Lowell to San Diego for Padres starting pitcher Jake Peavy.
"I told (Red Sox general manager) Theo (Epstein), 'If you can trade me for Jake Peavy you better do it," Lowell said. "That's a no-brainer."
Such light-heartedness is welcome nowadays, but hardly expected.
For many throughout the baseball world, these next few days are wrought with anxiety. As Monday's 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline creeps closer, players are waiting for the word regarding their comings and goings, while the teams' executives are riding a similar wave of uneasiness as they see who exactly wants to become their deal-making dance partner.
Change is in the air, and so is a fair amount of worry.
"Every year it's stressful," said Arizona Diamondbacks GM, and former Sox assistant GM, Josh Byrnes. "What I probably took out of my time in Boston was to make your best effort to stay plugged in to what teams are doing. Every move has some ripple effect, so as the deadline comes you have to be aware of that as much as possible."
The unsettling feeling which comes with the trickle-down from any potential move is currently festering in every major league clubhouse.
Seven active members of the Red Sox have been involved in either a trade just prior to the July 31 deadline, or the August 31 checkpoint in which teams can make trades but only involving players which have cleared through waivers.
One of those veterans of trade deadline deals, relief pitcher Rudy Seanez, knows better than most what a clubhouse feels like during the minutes leading up to the final afternoon in July.
"You just know something is going to happen, you just don't know what. I guess it's more exciting than anything," said 15-year major league veteran, who has been linked to rumors regarding a possible deal with Colorado. "You want to see who is going to come in and take off, but at the same time it could be you. "I just go about my business the same way every day and don't worry about it until it happens. It's not like I'm going to know anybody. It if it happens, it happens. It's just good to be wanted."
But for Boston's current trade bait, and those who have already gone through it - such as Coco Crisp, David Wells, Mark Loretta, Curt Schilling, Gabe Kapler, Mike Timlin (twice), and Seanez - the prospect of leaving isn't always easily digested.
"I think people who worry about other things probably worry about that, and I think people who don't care probably don't care," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who was never traded in his 10-year career. "It's been that way for a long time. I think when it's over you know pretty much what your team is and you can go about your business. But I don't think it's going to get in the way of us playing."
Doesn't it seem a bit silly that we have a myriad of teams lusting over the likes of Corey Lidle, Rodrigo Lopez, Mark Redman, Jon Lieber, Livan Hernandez, and virtually any other semi-upright starter who has won a few major leagues?
It is stating the obvious, but there just aren't enough pitchers to go around. So why doesn't somebody take the reigns and start putting a dent in the demand by subtracting their number of starters by one?
The four-man rotation is just itching to be reintroduced to baseball. Just ask Earl Weaver, who uttered the sensible words of, "It's a lot easier to find four starting pitchers than five."
The last two teams to take a stab at solving baseball's increasing dilution of pitching were the 2003 Toronto Blue Jays and the Colorado Rockies of '04.
The Rockies implemented the strategy in May of '04, going with the group of Jason Jennings, Joe Kennedy, Shawn Estes, and Scott Elarton, with Jeff Fassero serving as a long man. An 85-90 pitch limit was placed on each of the starters. Unfortunately for Colorado, the plan fell apart when its bullpen couldn't hold up its end up the bargain.
In Toronto, the Blue Jays entered June with the idea that Roy Halladay, Cory Lidle, Kelvim Escobar, and Mark Hendrickson were going to exclusively carry the starting load. But, despite Halladay's enthusiasm regarding the experiment, the Jays had to scratch the project when Lidle balked at the idea of risking injury in a contract year.
"It's hard to do, especially for a guy who throws pretty hard," said Escobar before yesterday's game between his Angels and the Red Sox at Fenway Park. "You don't have time to recover. I've done it, and I'm fine with it, but it's not easy. Not for 30 games. You could do it a few times, but it's hard."
At this point in the season, switching on the fly isn't really an option. Pitchers have been programmed to follow their five-day routine since spring training, and they any change to the regimen is usually considered taboo.
And, of course, there is the other part of the equation that doesn't fit in this day and age of five-man rotations.
"I think nowadays, with the innings, the longevity, and the money they're paying, you want to protect your investment," said Red Sox interim pitching coach Al Nipper. "I'm not saying going to a four-man rotation for a while wouldn't be a viable option, but if you went to a four-man rotation and you had some injuries, they would point the finger right to that."
Red Sox reliever Jermaine Van Buren remembers it like it was yesterday.
"There were bases loaded and I was pitching," he said of his showdown seven years ago. "So with the bases loaded and nobody out I'm just feeding this guy changeups. He takes the first two, and then I throw a slider in for strike three. The next guy comes up and he hits a changeup that looks like a line-drive base hit. I jump up, grab it and throw him out for a double play."
Remembering a seemingly innocuous moment like this in such detail is somewhat odd enough. But when you consider that it all took place on a minor league road trip in the form of a video game battle between Van Buren and outfielder Juan Pierre then it becomes downright scary.
"I just put my joystick down and walked away," boasted Van Buren of his victory over Pierre. "That was awesome."
The affable relief pitcher is the self-professed best video game player on the Red Sox, and according to his own evaluation, perhaps tops among most in the majors.
"All these other guys have to do their signings and stuff, but me, I just play," said Van Buren, who lists 'MLB '06: The Show' as his favorite. "I want to go to one of those big gaming shows and see how I can do. I know in the world of baseball I'm really good. In baseball season I never lose."
So you can imagine when Van Buren picked up his copy of 'The Show' this offseason and found that he was actually one of the players what a highlight it must have been.
"You can't imagine," he said. "I've been playing video games all my life and I've always wanted to see 'Jermaine Van Buren.' They don't have my face or anything, but it's pretty cool. Although they did have me throwing 94 and 95 mph, and I would rather have a better curveball or slider."
A day to remember
The Fenway Park home side's dugout hasn't seen smiles this big in some time.
North Andover 13-year-old twins Amanda and David Foote, joined their younger brother, James, in spending the moments leading up to yesterday's Sox game sitting in the Boston dugout. The occasion was made possible thanks to organizational legend Johnny Pesky, who had invited Lenny and Linda Foote's children to experience a glimpse of the big league life.
Pesky had heard the story of how David Foote's autograph, which the Sox mainstay had signed during a youth football game in Marblehead, had been lost in the recent floods.
Not only did Pesky oblige the trio by signing a few baseballs, but the day was enhanced when Amanda was chosen to be an honorary ball-girl for the pre-game festivities.
The participants are also siblings of Eagle-Tribune offensive MVP for last year's high school football season, Andrew Foote, who will be entering his senior season for the Scarlet Knights this fall.
Observing the not-so-obvious
* Lowell has demonstrated an innate ability to almost execute a play usually only dreamt about by recreational softball players.
Two different times this season, with runners on first and second, the Red Sox third baseman has intentionally dropped a line-drive, attempting to start a potential triple play. Both times, however, the umpire along the third base line recognized Lowell's intentions and ruled the play a catch.
"I know the third base umpire doesn't have the angle of the ball, but I was thinking that maybe he thought it short-hopped," said Lowell, whose latest stab at the chicanery came Friday night against the Angels. "You kind of go through the play and go through the situation in your head. In that play I know I can't double anyone off. I don't think I can do that anymore. If I try and play it off too much like I'm not going to catch it I am going to end up missing it."
* Despite not making his first start until June 10, Sox starter Jon Lester is already among the major league leaders in one category - picking runners off.
Lester's four pickoffs is one behind a group of hurlers with a league-leading five, all of whom have played at least two months more than the Boston rookie.
"I don't have one specific move," said Lester, who credited Sox bench coach Brad Mills for calling many of the pickoff attempts. "I just mix in the moves and see what happens."
* It went well under the radar, but Sox outfielder Coco Crisp notched a milestone moment in his major league career.
On July 19, in Boston's home game against the Kansas City Royals, Crisp was hit by a Redman pitch. The instance was noteworthy for the simple fact that it was the first time the outfielder was hit by a pitch in his previous 1,962 at-bats in the majors.
Part of the credit might be given to Crisp's lineage, since his father, Loyce, made a name for himself dodging fists as an accomplished amateur boxer.
July 31, 1995: Traded by the Detroit Tigers to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named later, C.J. Nitkowski, and Dave Tuttle (minors). The Cincinnati Reds sent Mark Lewis (November 16, 1995) to the Detroit Tigers to complete the trade.
August 31, 2002: Traded by the Milwaukee Brewers with cash to the Houston Astros for players to be named later. The Houston Astros sent Wayne Franklin (September 3, 2002) and Keith Ginter (September 5, 2002) to the Milwaukee Brewers to complete the trade.
August 7, 2002: Sent by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Cleveland Indians to complete an earlier deal made on July 19, 2002. The St. Louis Cardinals sent a player to be named later and Luis Garcia (minors) to the Cleveland Indians for Chuck Finley. The St. Louis Cardinals sent Crisp (August 7, 2002) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade.
July 31, 2002: Traded by the Texas Rangers with Jason Romano and cash to the Colorado Rockies for Dennys Reyes and Todd Hollandsworth.
July 26, 2000: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee, and Vicente Padilla.
August 31, 2001: Traded by the San Diego Padres to the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later. The Atlanta Braves sent Winston Abreu to the San Diego Padres to complete the trade.
July 31, 1997: Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays with Paul Spoljaric to the Seattle Mariners for Jose Cruz.
July 29, 2002: Traded by the St. Louis Cardinals with Placido Polanco and Bud Smith to the Philadelphia Phillies for Scott Rolen, Doug Nickle, and cash.