Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A new Loewen

Adam Loewen, you know the #4 pick overall in the 2002 draft? The left-handed pitcher who had the hopes and dreams of the Orioles strapped to his back? The guy who received a major league contract when he was signed? The guy who beat the star-studded U.S. team in the 2005 World Baseball Classic? The guy we all thought would take over for Erik Bedard as the O's ace when he was traded? The guy who...

You get my drift.

Well, that guy is done as a pitcher.

Yep, after failing to stay healthy in his three years as an Oriole, Adam Loewen opted to give up pitching for the O's in favor of rebooting his career as a positional player. Apparently Loewen has been watching the Rick Ankiel Story on ESPN the Ocho.

As improbable a journey this may be for Loewen, there is some validity to his decision. Loewen, for one, was a highly-touted hitter in college, and probably would have been drafted around the same spot had he decided to enter the draft as a hitter.

However, it has been six years since Loewen has swung a bat other than the occasional batting practice in inter-league games. So there is a good chance that the one inning he threw against the Rangers on July 6th could be Loewen's last time wearing an Orioles uniform. People can bring up Rick Ankiel all they want, but let's face it, he's a one-in-a-million story. The deck is stacked against Loewen.

Now, that isn't to say that this is a bad idea. The Orioles were faced with either losing Loewen for good, or taking a chance that he can become a decent positional prospect again. And from Loewen's stand-point, this is a gutsy move. He could of just undergone surgery again, sat at home, rehabbed, made another stab at pitching and collected his fat check. But he opted out of his contract and re-signed a minor league deal with the team to become a useful piece of the organization again. So kudos to Adam for not being selfish and lazy.

But the truth of the matter is Loewen is 24 and essentially starting over from scratch. Here's to hoping that he becomes the next Rick Ankiel, but the more likely scenario is that Loewen becomes the next Matthew Tucker, who is 25 and still in single-A Delmarva.

Good luck Adam.

As for the Orioles, this proves why the Brian Matusz draft pick was such a good one. Losing Loewen hurts because he was slotted to become the team's next ace. And solid LHP prospects are still hard to come by.

It also proves just how hard developing pitching can be. If Andy MacPhail is going to continue to go this route, he's got to be prepared for this stuff to happen, as we've already see with Troy Patton and Matt Albers. Let's hope he's got a back-up plan.

And that back-up plan should be to add a mid-tier free agent pitcher or two to take the stress of the younger pitchers in the rotation. We're seeing right now why handing the ball to youngsters and patting them on the rear isn't always the best idea. Both Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz look like they haven't ever heard of that invisible box called "the strike zone."

That way, when someone in the rotation goes down, you don't have to force two or three pitchers into the rotation at once. Just let the best guy have his chance.

That's all you can really do.

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