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Nate Lowe's Rise Continues With Loud Showing



DURHAM, N.C. — Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz are doing just fine at first base for the Rays this season, batting a combined .287 with nine doubles and six home runs through 21 games.

That still might not be enough to hold off Nate Lowe for long.

Lowe had three hits, including a long home run, off rehabbing National League All-Star Mike Foltynewicz on Sunday evening in Triple-A Durham’s (Rays) 7-6 loss to Gwinnett (Braves).

Lowe, the No. 93 prospect on the BA Top 100, finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored to raise his season average to .308 with a 1.051 OPS.

“He’s made some nice adjustments here early in the season,” Durham manager Brady Williams said. “He’s been pitched pretty tough. He’s staying patient at the plate, he’s taking his walks and today he got some pitches to hit and did some damage. It was good to see.”

Lowe drove an RBI single the opposite way to left field in his first-at bat against Foltynewicz. In his second at-bat, he ambushed a first-pitch, 94 mph fastball and launched it deep into the right-center field bleachers for a two-run homer. In his final at-bat against the Braves righthander, Lowe drove a line drive single into right.

Even Lowe’s one unsuccessful plate appearance—a strikeout against reliever Andres Santiago in the seventh—came after he battled through an 11-pitch at-bat and was rung up on a questionable strike three call.

It was a performance that led one scout in attendance to opine, “He’s ready. You could put him in the big leagues tomorrow.”

Lowe, 23, has a come a long way. At this time a year ago, he was a nearly anonymous 13th-round draft pick repeating high Class A.

An offseason spent getting in better shape and changing his in approach to hit the ball more out front paid immediate dividends, and by the time the year was over he'd hit .330 with 27 home runs, 102 RBIs and a .965 OPS while rising to Triple-A.

He’s carried his torrid hitting into 2019, capped by Sunday’s showing against Foltynewicz.

“It’s nice to be able to do it off somebody who’s established up there,” Lowe said. “But it’s just another ball in the strike zone as far as whoever’s throwing it. It’s all going to get to the plate a similar way.”

The one final area targeted for improvement is Lowe’s defense. The Mississippi State product is a big man at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, and Williams highlighted Lowe’s agility as something that needs to get better before his first callup.

“He’s working really hard at that,” Williams said. “Just working on his footwork and quickening up everything.”

Lowe, by his own admission, is still working to get there.

“It’s just making sure I’m moving my feet like I’m playing other positions at first base, just because first base gets kind of boring every now and then,” Lowe said. “There’s no real glam in catching a ground ball and flipping it to the pitcher. So I’m trying to make it look smooth, move a little better around the bag and hopefully get ready to play first base at the next level.”

Once he does that, there won’t be much holding Lowe back from the majors. In the meantime, he’s going to continue to try and carry the load for Durham.

“Just gotta keep going after it everyday,” he said. “It’s my job. I gotta do what I can do to help this team win here and then if a move happens, a move happens.”

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NEWS AND NOTES

— Foltynewicz allowed six runs in his first two innings before holding Durham scoreless over his final four. His fastball ranged from 91-96 mph and his 78-80 mph curveball was effective from start to finish. Foltynewicz struggled with his 83-85 mph slider early, allowing Durham hitters to sit on his fastball. Once he found feel for his slider, he retired 11 of his final 13 batters.

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