Two weeks ago, Derek Lowe thought his season might be over. He was that disgusted with the way he was pitching.
Now, he is a New York Yankees reliever.
Lowe signed a contract with the Yankees on Monday, two weeks after being designated for assignment by the Cleveland Indians.
"I was honest with myself," said Lowe after just arriving at Yankee Stadium. "I said, `I’m not going to go back if I can’t figure out what I have to change.’"
A self-professed career-long "tinkerer," the 39-year-old Lowe spent his brief time out of baseball working on his delivery in Fort Myers, Fla., getting back to the place where he felt he could contribute.
And contribute he did in his Yankees debut.
Lowe pitched four shutout innings in New York’s 8-2 win over Texas on Monday night, earning his first regular-season save since 2001 while with Boston.
"I had to get back to hiding the ball a little better," Lowe said. "I’m not going to do jumping jacks because you pitch one good game because you’re in this for the long haul."
When he was released by Cleveland on Friday he had been talking to Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Boston, the team he helped to win the 2004 World Series championship. The Yankees jumped in without seeing him throw when ace CC Sabathia went on the disabled list Saturday because of elbow trouble, and the deal was quickly agreed to.
"It happened in literally 10 minutes," the two-time All-Star said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wasn’t concerned that no one in the organization saw Lowe pitch in Florida after the right-hander had an 8.80 ERA over his last 12 starts for the Indians.
"This is a guy that’s been good for a significant period of time," Girardi said.
Right-hander Ryota Igarashi was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room on the roster for Lowe.
One of three pitchers in major league history with at least 160 wins and 80 saves — John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley are the others — Lowe is confident he’ll have no trouble working out of the bullpen for the first time since making one appearance in 2007 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 16-year veteran is 174-156 with 85 saves for Cleveland, Atlanta, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston and Seattle. He’s made 287 relief appearances. And he threw a no-hitter for Boston in 2002.
Lowe started the season 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA, but finished his stint with the Indians in a 2-9 slide. By the end of his time with Cleveland, his slider was coming out like "mashed potatoes."
"I stopped throwing bullpens for a while because I was so bad," he said.
Lowe is eager to pitch in New York — even if he might not be a fan favorite in the Bronx. He pitched six exceptional innings in Game 7 of the 2004 AL Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, helping Boston complete a remarkable comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the series.
"I think playing eight years in Boston and you got a little of it in LA, but I’ve always enjoyed this time of year and playing in big markets and having every game mean something, and being accountable for what you do," Lowe said. "I don’t care what my role is here. You pitch when you’re told. But these atmospheres on the East Coast, you can’t compare to anywhere else."
In the final year of a four-year, $60 million contract, Lowe doesn’t look at this as an opportunity to extend his career beyond this season.
"I’m sitting here watching baseball on TV, I’m not worried about next year," Lowe said he told his agent.