MANCHESTER, N.H. - Jed Lowrie snapped a piece of Double Bubble gum as he completed the routine.
Portland's switch-hitting shortstop, who wore a pair of neon colored sunglasses, swung deliberately, rapping ball after ball off a tee and into a small net propped against the backstop.
"The repetition helps me feel some things out," the 23-year-old said before the Sea Dogs defeated the New Hampshire Fisher Cats 5-4 in front of a crowd of 6,831 at Merchantsauto.com Stadium last night.
After the short session, Lowrie trotted over to an autograph seeker hanging out by the visitors dugout.
"When are they going to call you up?" the teenager asked. "I bet you'd do better than Julio Lugo."
Lowrie smiled. "It's not up to me," he responded.
All he can do, he said, is focus on his own skills, which have been on display of late. His compact swing and keen eye for the strike zone have drawn comparisons to current Red Sox Kevin Youkilis.
In Lowrie's first year at Class AA Portland, he is hitting .305 with 35 RBIs. His OBP (.412 coming in to last night) is impressive, and for one stretch this season, he reached base safely in 38 straight games. When the Sea Dogs played the Trenton Thunder this spring, he went 2 for 2 (with two doubles) off a rehabbing Roger Clemens.
There are times, Lowrie said, he looks at the big club in Boston and wonders where he'd fit in. Lugo, his major league counterpart, came into last night's game against the Mariners hitting .193.
"It's hard not to (wonder). That's where you want to be," said Lowrie, who was named the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Month for May. "But you're here for a reason. Those guys are in Boston for a reason."
To his teammates, Lowrie is known as a student of hitting.
"He's what I call a consummate professional," outfielder Jay Johnson said. "He always hits strikes, he's got a lot of pop, and he's never swinging off of his (rear end)."
Lowrie began to hone his now polished swing at North Salem (Ore.) High School, learning to switch hit as a schoolboy. He read "The Science of Hitting," the book Ted Williams wrote with John Underwood. In the classroom, Lowrie excelled, scoring a 1,210 in the two-part SAT.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Lowrie played varsity basketball, averaging 14.5 points per game during his senior season in 2001-02. Still, Lowrie said, "The question was always, 'was he big and strong enough to play baseball?"
He went on to excel at Stanford University, hitting .336 over three years. In 2004, his best collegiate season, he hit .399 and was named Pac-10 Player of the Year. After his junior season in 2005, the Red Sox selected him in the first round of the draft.
New England has suited him well so far, he said, except for the weather.
"It changes with the drop of a hat," he said, citing the seemingly constant stream of 80-degree days that made up his college experience in Palo Alto, Calif.
He hit .328 at Class A Lowell in 2005 and .262 at High A Wilmington last season (he battled a high-ankle sprain for nine weeks) before earning a promotion to Portland this spring.
Even after a rapid ascent, Lowrie prides himself in being laid back. He gets his work in on game days, and tries to relax when he can. He's kept himself sane playing Nintendo DS on bus rides, and catching movies - he said he's seen all of the summer's "Threequels"; "Spider-Man 3," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and "Ocean's 13."
"You have to let things go," he said. "If you're always in a mental grind, you'll wear yourself out."
One question remains. Is Lowrie a bona fide major-league prospect?
He has a supporter in Portland manager Arnie Beyeler.
"We'll see how it shakes out," said Beyeler, who was a coach in the Yankees organization from 1997-99. "A lot of that stuff has to do with needs (of teams) and different things like that. Last time I was in this league, (Alfonso) Soriano was our shortstop. Some guy in Yankee Stadium kind of moved him around (All-Star Derek Jeter) so he couldn't play shortstop."
It comes down to one thing, Beyeler added.
"If you can swing the bat, you're going to play in the big leagues."
Lowrie certain has demonstrated the ability to hit. The season's typical ups and downs don't seem to faze him. Last night, less than 24 hours after Sunday's 0-for-5 performance, he went 3 for 5. Lowrie laced a pair of opposite-field doubles from the right side of the plate and blooped a single to short left field from the left side of the plate.
Lowrie isn't sure where his career will lead next. Still, he prepares every day like he's about to be called up to the majors.
"Whenever that happens," he said. "I want to be ready."