Loewen moves on to next chapter
* OF Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) shown here scoring and hi-fiving Mike McCoy in 2011, has an invite to major-league camp with the New York Mets ….
By Chris Toman
Adam Loewen is set to embark on another year of uncertainty. At this point in his career, he’s used to it.
The Baltimore Orioles selected Loewen with the fourth overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft as a left-handed pitcher out of Surrey, B.C.
After climbing through Baltimore’s farm system, Loewen got the call to the big leagues and made his MLB debut in May 2006. Two years later, in July 2008, Loewen pitched the last game of his career.
Loewen required surgery to repair a stress fracture in his pitching elbow in the middle of the 2007 season and was never able to recover from the injury.
It couldn’t, however, keep Loewen away from the game.
In October 2008, after reaching an agreement with Baltimore to be released, Loewen signed a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays — this time, as an outfielder.
In Rick Ankiel-like fashion, Loewen made his triumphant return to the big leagues on Sept. 7, 2011, and singled in his fourth plate appearance off Boston’s Daniel Bard.
He spent the rest of the month with Toronto and, ironically enough, hit his first major league home run against the Orioles — a game-tying shot — at Rogers Centre in his third game in the majors as a position player.
“Playing with the Blue Jays in September was really a dream come true,” Loewen said last month at an event in Toronto. “I don’t use those words lightly. I grew up watching them and they were my favourite team, so to actually play for them was incredible. I wasn’t nervous at all because of what I’ve been through the last three years. I felt comfortable out there, but at the same time I was really excited to play in front of my home country. It was the icing on the cake.”
Loewen, 27, was an exceptional two-way player growing up, but, as a 6-foot-6 power lefty, he was destined to be a star on the mound.
In 2004, Will Lingo of Baseball America ranked Loewen as Baltimore’s No. 1 prospect. Lingo had this to say about him at the time:
“With two plus pitches and the possibility for two more, Loewen has legitimate No. 1 starter potential.”
The two plus pitches were a 90-95 mph fastball and a 12-to-6 curveball that Lingo considered his best pitch.
Lingo added: “Loewen would have been drafted early as a power-hitting outfielder if he wasn’t such a promising pitcher.”
Last season, playing in Triple-A for the Las Vegas 51s in the Pacific Coast League, Loewen displayed the power that Lingo spoke of years ago. He hit .306 with 17 home runs and 85 RBIs over 134 games.
Things were finally starting to come together for Loewen as a hitter, but it wasn’t an easy process grinding through Toronto’s minor league system.
“The first two years were really tough mentally,” Loewen said. “But last year was the least of my struggles. I started to see results that I hadn’t been seeing before.”
He hit .300 for the first time in pro ball and set career highs in nearly every offensive category, while playing all three outfield positions and some first base, too.
Despite his success in the minors, Loewen’s time with the Blue Jays didn’t last long. He was outrighted off Toronto’s 40-man roster this past winter and, as someone who was out of options on his contract, he would have had to make the Blue Jays’ 25-man roster out of Spring Training or risk being waived.
With an already crowded outfield in place, there was no room for Loewen in Toronto.
It didn’t take long, however, for the pitcher-turned-outfielder to get another chance with a big-league club.
Loewen signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets, a deal that included an invitation to spring training, just weeks after he closed the chapter on his Blue Jays career.
He’s eager to make the most of it.
“My goal is to break camp with the Mets,” Loewen said. “This is the first year I have the opportunity to do that since playing with the Orioles in 2007-08. Now I’m going into camp with a chance to make the team. It’s really up to me, so I’m embracing that opportunity.”
Given his age, Loewen should have been entering his prime as an established big-league pitcher. Instead, he’s fighting to stay in the game as a position player.
“Every once in a while I miss it,” Loewen said about being on the mound. “But really, I know that’s over with and hitting is my future. I tried that and pitched until I couldn’t pitch anymore and I’m completely content with where I’m at right now.”