For Rays’ Josh Lowe, 2023 breakout season is just the beginning

PORT CHARLOTTE — Josh Lowe is the kind of guy who is never satisfied.

The Rays outfielder used his rough 2022 indoctrination to the major leagues as motivation entering last season and proved he was a much better player with a stellar breakout performance.

After hitting .292 with 20 homers, 32 steals, 33 doubles and an .835 OPS — only National League MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. beat that combination of numbers — Lowe is driven to do even better.

“I think I’ve always been a confident player in knowing what I can do,” Lowe, 26, said Sunday morning. “I know that I can be the player that I was last year for many years to come. And that’s my goal every year, to try and do better than that year and just do what I can on the field to help the team win.

“If I’m doing that, I think we’ll be in a good place. But you’ve got to go out and work hard every single day. You can’t take a day for granted. Go out there and get after it.”

Lowe, a 2016 first-round pick, impressed his Rays bosses and teammates as much with his 2023 success as with how he handled his struggles the previous season. He hit .221 with two homers, three steals, 12 doubles and a .627 OPS over 52 games in 2022 and was sent down twice.

“Just the ability to move past and learn from failures,” said second baseman Brandon Lowe (no relation). “The path that he had growing up, he’s been a superstar athlete pretty much his whole life, to being a first-rounder, to being the guy throughout the minor leagues. And to get up and struggle and not fold in any way, it was almost like it just sharpened him more.

“He used that to his advantage and learned from everything that he went through and put that product that you saw on the field last year. And knowing who he is and what kind of player he is, he’s going to do nothing but let that sharpen him more and more. Hopefully, you get a better product on the field than last year, which would be saying a lot.

“It’s just the kind of work ethic that he has and the kind of player that he is,” Brandon Lowe continued. “He’s not going to look back on a year and say, ‘Alright, I’m good.’ He’s going to pretty much just say, ‘We’re going to build on that and try to do better than what I did the year before.’”

Josh Lowe said he was proudest last year of reaching the 20-homer mark. He also was pleased to be caught stealing only three times.

He said his primary goal this season is to be more consistent, eliminating some of the highs and lows over a six-month season.

“That’s what makes great players great,” he said.

Manager Kevin Cash lauded Lowe for the “pretty drastic adjustments” he made to shorten his swing before last season, then how he used his early success to bolster his confidence.

Cash says Lowe can do even better.

“If there was one guy that I would say you could see taking the same sizable jump again, I would put it on him,” Cash said. “Not to put added pressure on, but I just think that with his offseason, appreciate him recognizing what he just did, and knowing Josh, he’s pretty hungry to be a really, really good player.

“He’s going to put the work in. I think offensively there’s a higher ceiling, and defensively he’s pretty motivated. He’s already said to (coach Michael Johns), ‘I want to improve my defense. I want to get my name in that Gold Glove conversation.’”

Lowe also enters the season with some level of comfort. His mother Wendy, who was diagnosed with brain cancer during last season, has stabilized.

“She gets scans every three months or so, and she’s doing good,” he said. “She appreciates all the kind words that she hears all the time, and she’s looking forward to come to the Trop and hopefully watching a few games this year.”

As if Lowe didn’t have enough motivation entering this season, there also is the matter of his older brother, Rangers first baseman Nathaniel, celebrating a World Series championship.

Josh said it was “special” seeing his brother’s team win, and he is confident the Rays have the talent to do so as well.

If and when they do, then — and only then — might Lowe consider being pleased with what he’s done.

“Until we’re able to raise the trophy over our heads, I wouldn’t necessarily say I’d be satisfied,” he said. “I’d rather win than anything else.”

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