SEATTLE -- The three pitches right-hander Mark Lowe threw during the Mariners' Opening Day victory over the Rangers at Safeco Field were among the most important of the game. Not that the 24-year-old needed any self-assurance that his injury-plagued past is behind him and it's full speed ahead, but saying so and doing so are two different things. And he did what he was supposed to do when he entered the game in the eighth inning with two outs, two runners on base, one run in and the American League West rivals trying to cut into a three-run deficit. The third pitch Lowe threw to Texas catcher Gerald Laird was hit to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who fielded the ball cleanly, flipped it to second baseman Jose Lopez for the inning-ending out, and closer J.J. Putz sealed the deal in the ninth, finalizing the 5-2 win.
"I knew I had to keep my composure and prevent the inning from blowing up on us," Lowe said prior to Tuesday night's game. "My job was to come in and get that last out, which I did." The brief and effective outing was a personal highlight for Lowe, who experienced his first big league Opening Day. He has come a long way from the arm surgery he had in 2006 that limited him to 15 games last season -- four of them with the Mariners. He said those four games were more important to his comeback than Monday's game. But make no mistake, he's back. And until further notice, Lowe will be the right-handed bridge to Putz -- a job right-hander Brandon Morrow had much of last season. Morrow currently is on the 15-day disabled list and working his way back to the big leagues with Double-A West Tennessee. "It's exciting about thinking of Morrow rejoining the staff at some point," manager John McLaren said. "He brings to the table a power arm, and he, along with Lowe, gives me a very nice feeling." When healthy, Morrow and Lowe throw in the mid-90s. Exactly when Morrow returns depends entirely on his health. "When he's healthy, he'll be back," McLaren said. Lowe, who spent Spring Training as one of the so-called "Rehab Guys" -- along with right-hander Chris Reitsma and left-hander Arthur Rhodes -- is the only one that made the 25-man roster. "I was impressed with all of the Rehab Guys the first time I saw them throw on the side," McLaren said, "but [Lowe] seemed to be further along than the others. "We're not going to abuse him, but he showed us by pitching back to back and three out of five days that he's back. His arm is built up again, and we feel comfortable using him just about any way we want to." To that, Lowe says bring it on. "I'm ready to go tonight if they need me," he said.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.