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Orioles Need Help From Minor-League Hurlers

By Staci Wolfson

With a combined 1-12 record in 19 games pitched, Orioles pitchers Rodrigo Lopez and Bruce Chen are the black eyes of a pitching staff that has Baltimore fans lamenting this season's difficult start.

Lopez and Chen, each with an ERA over 8.00, are just two of the holes Manager Sam Perlozzo will be working to fix. Following their back-to-back losses to the Washington Nationals last weekend, the Orioles headed west to face the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with only two winning starters and a weary bullpen.

Going into the last week of May the Orioles have already dipped into their farm system to give major league looks at bullpen pitchers Kurt Birkins, Chris Britton, Julio Manon and Eddy Rodriguez.

At PressBox printing time, the Orioles say they expect Adam Loewen to be preparing for his first major league start against the Seattle Mariners. Originally the Orioles were planning to have Ottawa starter Hayden Penn fill in for Daniel Cabrera, but Monday Penn went on the 15-day disabled list with appendicitis. Replacing Cabrera and now Penn, Loewen may have a shot at cracking a rotation that could soon be without Lopez or Chen. Here is a look at Loewen and his fellow minor-league hurlers.

Adam Loewen
Bowie Baysox southpaw Loewen could be seeing his major league debut by 2007, if not by the end of this season.

The Orioles' 2002 first-round draft pick completed last season with the Single-A Frederick Keys with a 10-8 record and a 4.12 ERA. Now, having started eight games for the Baysox, the Canadian has worked his way to a 4-2 record with a 2.72 ERA.

In his last start, the Baseball America second-best Baltimore prospect, allowed only one run over six innings in Bowie's 6-1 win over the Trenton Thunder.

Hayden Penn
Penn, a right handed Californian, made his major league debut with the Orioles in May of last year at the age of 20. Accumulating a 3-2 record with a 6.34 ERA in eight starts with the Orioles did not detriment his success at the lower levels.

In five games this year with the Triple-A Ottawa Lynx, Penn is 2-2 with a 1.48 ERA. In 30.3 innings he has walked only 11 batters, striking out 29.

Ranked as the Orioles' third-best prospect by Baseball America, Penn may be able to attribute his call-up to his last start for Ottawa. In it, he pitched seven scoreless innings against the Syracuse SkyChiefs. This is nothing new to Penn; in his first win of the season on May 4, he pitched seven no-hit innings, walking only two and striking out six.

J.J. Johnson
According to Baseball America, Johnson, out of Endicott, N.Y., is the Orioles seventh-ranked prospect.

In July of 2004, while with the Delmarva Shorebirds, he was named Organizational Pitcher of the Month. With the Keys in 2005, Johnson was able to boast a 12-9 record and a 3.49 ERA. Johnson led the team in strikeouts with 168.

Now starting for the Baysox, Johnson is currently 4-1 with a 3.74 ERA in nine games. In 45.2 innings pitched, he has allowed only two homeruns.

Radhames Liz
This 22-year-old Dominican right-handed pitcher has emerged as one of the Carolina League's most dominant starters.

Signed in 2003 as an undrafted free agent, Liz went on to pitch for the Shorebirds and the Aberdeen Ironbirds in 2005. In a combined 194.1 innings pitched, he struck out 137 batters.

Throwing now for the Keys, Liz has started eight games, compiling a 4-1 record and a 1.47 ERA. He leads Frederick with a .160 opponent batting average. With the Keys, Liz is developing four pitches: his fastball, curveball, breaking ball and his changeup.

Garrett Olson
Drafted by the Orioles as compensation for the organization's failure to sign Wade Townsend, this left-handed pitcher out of California moved up this season to Bowie after spending 2005 in Aberdeen. According to Baseball America, Olson possesses the best curveball out of all the organization's minor league pitchers

Starting for the Baysox in nine games this season, Olson has amassed a 3-3 record with a 3.47 ERA. Olson saw six innings in his last start, a loss to the 10-3 Kinston Indians in which he walked three and gave up two earned runs.

For more minor league musings, visit PressBox's new farmhand tracker at www.pressboxonline.com.

Issue 1.5: May 25, 2006