HOUSTON -- Jed Lowrie will do everything possible to be in the lineup when the A's return to Houston for a three-game series beginning Friday night. Despite enduring a 107-loss season with the Astros last year, the A's shortstop maintained playing there will always be significant to him.
"It was a trade-off," he said. "It was a great personal opportunity for me to go play every day, so I think it was the right situation for me at the time. But I'm happy I'm here now (with Oakland)."
Lowrie's foot was still sore and swollen Wednesday when he missed just his third game of the year, the result of being hit by a pitch on the right foot the night before by Texas righty Yu Darvish. But X-rays were negative, leading to Lowrie's optimism about being in the lineup Friday night against his former teammates.
It looks like the Astros are well on their way to another 100-loss season at 14-33, although they've played somewhat better since the A's saw them early in the season in home-and-home series and went 6-0.
Lowrie admitted he still checks the box scores to see how the Astros are doing, particularly diminutive second baseman Jose Altuve, whom he loved playing with as part of Houston's double play combination.
"I'm a little invested in those guys because of what we went through last year," he said. "It was a bunch of young guys learning how to play the game. They have a lot of good young players and it was good for me to go through that experience, because I came from an organization that had a recent history of winning (the Boston Red Sox), so I saw that side of it, and then I saw the other side of it as well. It gave me a little perspective about how difficult the game is."
Even though Oakland hasn't exactly taken the baseball world by storm so far at 25-23, Lowrie already sees a world of difference in mental preparation for the day-to-day grind now that he's with a club that at least has a realistic chance to win.
"You're always somewhat focused on what you're trying to do on the field, but it makes it a really long year when you're not having any success as a team," he said. "You can go out and have a great day and lose and it just doesn't feel the same. You can go out there and have a bad day and win, and you feel good."
It's been reflected in his play. Even though he came to the A's just two weeks before spring training started, Lowrie to this point stands as general manager Billy Beane's best offseason move by far. He's hitting .301 with a .378 on-base percentage, 15 doubles, three home runs and 21 RBIs in 45 games.
Lowrie has also demonstrated that he can be the everyday shortstop, so much so that the A's are looking at expensive Japanese import Hiro Nakajima at second and third base while he rehabs from a hamstring injury in the minor leagues. Nakajima's rehab period is up, but they optioned him to Triple-A Sacramento on Thursday for more work at those other positions.
"He's been great from the first day he walked in the door in spring training," said manager Bob Melvin of Lowrie. "He's been everything we expected and more."
Perhaps most importantly, he's stayed on the field.
Lowrie's extensive history of maladies over his career -- shoulder, wrist, ankle, oblique, even a bout with mononucleosis -- have kept him from demonstrating what he's capable of over a full season. At 29, he has yet to log 100 games in a single season.
But it's just May, and he's about halfway to his career best in games played (97) and plate appearances (387).
He's crossing his fingers. More than any statistical number, he just wants to get through a season relatively unscathed physically.
"That's always been my goal. Every year I've shown up, the key question has always been about health," he said. "I know I can play this game at a high level, but I feel like I've been in the wrong place at the wrong time a couple times. Bad luck, whatever you want to call it. I've had three collision injuries that just don't happen a lot in baseball. I'm overdue for some good fortune."
X-rays coming back negative on Lowrie's right foot was a hopeful sign that maybe he really is off on the right foot toward a full year.