By Louis Berney
When the Orioles took the field against the Blue Jays on June 8, Orioles' fans saw a welcome sight not seen for a long time.
Two Orioles, outfielder Nick Markakis and pitcher Adam Loewen, were former No. 1 Baltimore draft picks. The last time the Orioles had two top picks on the field at the same time was eight years ago.
In addition to Markakis and Loewen, two other players in the starting lineup that night, Brian Roberts and Brandon Fahey, were also drafted by the organization and brought up through its farm system.
Those longing for an Oriole youth movement, don't have to wait any longer.
Adam Loewen's first two starts in the big leagues matched him against Cy Young winners. (Courtesy of Bowie Baysox)
Since 1990, the Orioles have selected a pitcher as their top draft pick eight times. Yet Loewen, who was drafted in 2002, is the only one of those eight to pitch in a game for the Orioles since Mike Mussina.
A Canadian left hander, Loewen contended with two tough assignments in his first two starts. On June 3 Loewen faced the Yankees and their Hall of Fame-bound ace, Randy Johnson. His second outing, in the game against Toronto, pitted him against the Blue Jays' former Cy Young winner, Roy Halladay.
After he was promoted on May 22, Loewen appeared twice out of the bullpen. His relief appearances weren't brilliant and neither were his starts.
Against the Yankees, Loewen pitched five complete innings and only 5.1 against the Blue Jays. He gave up a combined 17 hits and eight earned runs, striking out six and walking five. However, Manager Sam Perlozzo has no immediate plans to remove Loewen from the rotation.
"I thought Adam rose to the occasion and pitched pretty well against a powerful right-handed offense," Perlozzo said after the Toronto game. "That's kind of what we want all our starters to do. The youngster looks like he's getting a little better each time. You've got to give him credit. He's in there fighting and concentrating."
In his 15 innings with the Orioles, Loewen has stuck out 13 batters. (Courtesy of Bowie Baysox)
Loewen was effective at Double-A Bowie this year, where he went 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA before his call-up to Baltimore. Still, Loewen was only promoted as a replacement for Hayden Penn, who had an emergency appendectomy before his first 2006 appearance.
Loewen expressed pleasure after his second start. "The nerves are gone, and I'm allowing myself to pitch the way I'm capable of," he said. "Hopefully things will get better each time out."
That's what the Orioles are counting on from their young pitchers.
Like Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera, Loewen is praised for his arm. But, also like Bedard and Cabrera, coaches agree that Loewen must improve his command and his rhythm.
Youth movements are refreshing for teams like the Orioles, a long-time losing team that has been saddled for close to a decade with veterans from other organizations arriving in Baltimore on the down-side of their careers.
Issue 1.8: June 15, 2006