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Ferguson: Loewen still living for the dream

Scott Ferguson
8/5/2014 9:40:15 PM
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There have been many major leaguers who switched from being pitchers to position players; Babe Ruth, "Smokey" Joe Wood and Tim Wakefield just to name a few. A few went the other way from position player to pitcher, such as Blue Jays reliever Sergio Santos, who started as a shortstop and is trying to earn another shot with the Blue Jays pitching in relief for Triple "A" Buffalo.

This story takes the conversion process one step further. You, no doubt, remember the name of left-hander Adam Loewen. The strapping 6'6 Vancouver native was taken fourth overall by Baltimore in the June 2002 draft. That was the highest a Canadian had ever been selected since our country was first included in the draft in 1985. Loewen made it to the bigs with the Orioles in 2006 at age 22, but he had his struggles over the next three seasons, compiling an 8-8 record with a 5.38 ERA over 35 appearances, including 29 starts. Worse than that were the injuries; suffering stress fractures to his left elbow in 2007 and 2008.

At that point, Loewen wondered where to turn. He remembered he had been a pretty good hitter in his younger days and decided he might be able to re-establish himself as a position player.
 
In 2009, he signed on with the Blue Jays organization and finally got a shot with the big club when the rosters expanded in September 2011.  Loewen didn't look out of place in the outfield but in 14 games, he hit only .188 with one homer, a double and four runs batted in. In 2012, he played in the Mets minor league system and then bounced back to the Jays organization last year, spending the bulk of the year at Double "A".

That brings us to this season. After playing winter ball in Venezuela, Loewen wondered if his time had come and he wasn't going to get another major league offer. At that point, seven years after his first elbow injury, he decided to give pitching another shot when he returned home to Arizona. After a short while, scouts from four teams checked him out. Then the Phillies took a look-see. Finally, Loewen got a call from Pat Gillick, who still works in the Phils organization, and ultimately received an offer of a minor league contract and an invitation to extended spring training in Clearwater.

Loewen moved ahead to the Phillies "A" ball franchise in Clearwater and then jumped to the Double "A" Reading Fightin Phils of the Eastern League. While not mind blowing, his numbers aren't that bad and he has been improving steadily.  Loewen has made 12 starts and has one complete game.  He's 2-4 with a 3.45 ERA, 49 strikeouts and 32 walks.

He had arguably his best start yet on Monday night this week against the Harrisburg Senators. He pitched into the eighth inning in a 5-1 victory, giving up five hits while striking out four and walking three.

Time clearly is not on Loewen's side with about a month to go in the minor league season. But he is a lefty and he has incredible determination. On top of that, the Phillies are a last place team that needs help in multiple areas and just might give him a look in September. What a story it would be if Loewen could make it all the way back after all he's been through.

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The Colorado Rockies will equal an unusual record, if you want to call it that, which most probably didn't know existed on Tuesday. They are due to send left hander Brett Anderson to the mound. This game will mark the 20th straight game the Rockies have started a southpaw and will equal the mark of the 1982 Kansas City Royals. The '82 Royals included lefties Paul Splittorf, Bud Black, (Padres Manager), Vida Blue and Larry Gura (known as a Blue Jays killer).

Colorado's southpaws include Jorge De La Rosa , Brett Anderson, Tyler Matzek, Franklin Morales and  Pedro Hernandez. The left hand tilt hasn't really helped the Rockies. They've dropped seven out of 10 and have a dismal record of 44-67 - second worst in the majors to Texas at 43-69. The record won't be broken, though, as Colorado intends to use right hander Jordan Lyles on Wednesday night.

The Texas Rangers have a chance to make a little history of their own. They are just short of the pace needed to become only the third team in major league history to go from 90 wins one season to 100 the next. The other two teams were affected by ownership tightening the purse strings.

In 1914, Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's made it to the World Series but the next year the "outlaw" Federal League started bidding for players and stealing other teams' stars. Mack refused to go dollar for dollar with the Feds and his team lost a number of quality players. They went from 99 wins to 109 losses in 1915.

In 1997, the Florida Marlins won their first of two World Series in seven years. But after '97, owner Wayne Huizenga ordered a massive payroll rollback and the 1998 Marlins fell from 92 wins to 108 losses. The Rangers' problem hasn't been spending or lack thereof. They've just been brutalized by injuries and a very tough division.

The Blue Jays have 49 games left - 28 at home, but the next nine could go a long way towards making or breaking their season. Starting Tuesday night, they are home to AL East leading Baltimore followed by three games at home against Central leading Detroit, and then they kick off a road trip with three against Seattle - a team just two games behind them in the race for that second Wild Card position. Going 6-3 in this stretch should keep them in the thick of the postseason battle with 40 games to play.




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