*Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) knocking on the door in his comeback trail by hitting white-hot in the Las Vegas desert./Eddie Michels photo.
By Bob Elliott
When will they bring him up?
Enough is enough at Las Vegas!
Isn’t it about time?
We’re not talking about third baseman Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC), out with a non-displaced fracture to a bone in the back of his left hand.
Nor is the topic of discussion outfielder Eric Thames who recently hit .286 in 13 games with the Jays.
Or, outfielder Travis Snider, batting .281, and .304 with three RBIs in his past 10 games, heading into Thursday’s tilt in Tucson.
Who, then? Are there any more Las Vegas 51s worth mentioning other than maybe Chris Woodward?
What about ourfielder Adam Loewen (Surey, BC), this being draft week and all? Nine years ago, Loewen was selected fourth overall, as a pitcher, by the Baltimore Orioles.
True, the Jays don’t have a pressing need in the outfield, but is Loewen a better option than platooning DH Edwin Encarnacion?
“What he’s so close to accomplishing now, getting back to the majors as a hitter, is more impressive than going in the first round as a pitcher,” said Walt Burrows (Brentwood Bay, BC), Canadian director of the Major League Scouting Bureau. “It’s so much easier going from hitter to a pitcher.”
Loewen is .313, with 22 doubles, 11 homers, 45 RBIs, and a .949 OPS in 58 games, is in his third year re-learning to hit after being in the Orioles’ rotation.
“And he started in 2009 in the Florida State League, a pitcher’s league, not the Gulf-Coast against guys out of high school,” Burrows said.
Loewen was faced with a decision after breaking his elbow a second time in 2008. Was his career over? Does he have surgery, go through rehab and maybe have his elbow break again? Or does he re-define himself?
He chose to hit.
“Kudos to the Jays for giving him the chance,” Burrows said. “He wasn’t successful right away. He hung with it, especially going from the majors to Dunedin.”
Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams, coached Loewen for three years with the junior squad.
“He was the best high school player in the world,” said Hamilton, from Ottawa. “I truly believe he would have been a first-rounder as a hitter and position player if he decided not to pitch in high school. He played the game with an incredible ease.”
At the 2002 world junior championship in Sherbrooke, Que., Loewen played right field — the Orioles did not want him to pitch — and he hit .713.
Burrows’ job is to examine and dissect a player, grade him and place an overall future potential number (OFP) on him to give to his bosses.
“I’m not telling you what the number was, but it’s the highest I’ve ever put on a player,” said Burrows from Little Rock, Ark.
He saw Jamie Romak (London, Ont.) collect two hits and Tim Smith (Toronto, Ont.) foul off three pitches and then hit a 95-mph fastball up the middle for a walk-off single as the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (a Kansas City farm team) won the other night.
From there, Burrows goes to the Tournament of Stars where Team USA is selected from 160 players. Burrows has scouted the tourney since 1996 and has never given a higher OFP than the one he gave Loewen.
“Adam was 6-foot-5, 215 pounds out of high school, a good hockey and volleyball player, very athletic,” Burrows said. “It’s really rare to see guys with speed, size and strength. He was blessed.”
Burrows says Rick Ankiel switching from a starting pitcher to an outfielder is the only comparison he can think of, to what Loewen is trying.
Scouts have long memories and Burrows recalls Team USA’s Scott Kazmir facing Loewen in Joplin, Mo. Kazmir threw five scoreless innings and B.J. Upton homered off Loewen in a 1-0 win.
Loewen’s nickname pitching for coach Dennis Springenatic’s Whalley Chiefs was “Big” as in Big Game.
“It’s been quite a journey for Loewen,” Burrows says. “It’s really quite an amazing story.”
With only one chapter left to write.