With a considerable level of anticipation that the Phillies will experience some turnover with their pitching staff leading to next season, it feels as though fans and media alike have begun to say goodbye to certain hurlers. Who replaces those arms promises to be the focus of the team’s offseason.
A candidate to fill a void in the Phillies’ rotation next is former big leaguer Adam Loewen, who the Phillies acquired earlier this season as a free agent.
Loewen, a left-hander, has been to the majors twice. His initial ascension to the big leagues was as a pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles after he was selected as the fourth overall draft pick in 2002, two places before Zack Greinke and three spots prior to Prince Fielder.
He last pitched in the majors in 2008 as a 24-year-old. After suffering a stress fracture in his throwing elbow, having a four-and-a-half inch long titanium screw surgically inserted into the joint and dealing with lasting complications from the ailment, it became apparent, at the time, that Loewen’s pitching career was finished.
The British Columbia native would spend that following off-season working on his offense and showed enough to the Toronto Blue Jays that they offered him a contract to begin a new path to the big leagues, as a position player.
As an outfielder, Loewen again reached the top level of the sport, playing in 14 games with the Blue Jays in 2011, batting .188 with a home run and four RBI. After a couple more years in the minors trying to climb the developmental ladder with in the Mets’ and Blue Jays’ systems, he was told his time was up as a hitter. Last winter, however, Loewen got the itch to pitch and his career was reborn once again.
“I wanted to continue at the time, but the decision was made for me,” Loewen stated. “But, I’m not bitter about it anymore. I love pitching and maybe it’ll work out for the better.”
Back on the mound, Loewen got some exposure in front of multiple teams. The Phillies offered him a minor league contract after the 2014 campaign began.
Loewen’s return to the mound was assisted by his best friend former pro backstop and current coach Cole Armstrong, who helped with bullpen sessions and long toss programs.
The six-foot-six 235-pounder also offered credit to Double-A Reading’s pitching coach for helping him get his groove back.
“Dave Lundquist and I have really been on the same page this whole time. I feel like he’s really helped me with my development and getting the feel back for my pitches,” Loewen explained.
Lundquist asserted that he saw loads of progress in the 30-year-old’s efforts during his time with the Fightins this year.
“When he first got here, the biggest thing he needed was reps off the mound, as many as we could get him. Then he slowly but surely began getting into his natural rhythm with his release point and arm speed and spin on the baseball,” Lundquist stated. “He finally started getting comfortable with everything and we saw a lot of development. He put together a lot of quality starts for us”.
This season, Loewen posted a 5-5 record with a 3.25 ERA along with a 6.65 K/9 mark in 19 combined starts for Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading. He wrapped up a stretch in which he tossed nine consecutive quality starts for Reading on August 9th. Loewen tallied 2.52 ERA over his final 12 starts of the season.
While the results where what Loewen says he expected of himself, the durability of his formerly troubled arm came as a surprise. He seemed to anticipate fatigue or discomfort, but those never came. In their place were added arm strength and stamina.
Loewen is equipped with a fastball that, in the low 90’s, registers a bit lower on the velocity scale than it did when he was a rising prospect that held MLB All-Stars Chipper Jones, Mark Teixeira and Derrek Lee hitless in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.
His secondary pitches are also just slightly varied from his initial run as a hurler.
“My two-seamer actually tails now rather than cuts. Everything used to cut. Now, I have a four-seamer that naturally cuts and the two-seamer I can kind of put where I want to with the fastballs going both ways,” Loewen said, mentioning that he also mixes in change ups, sliders and an occasional curve ball to keep the opposition guessing.
Expect the tenacious trouper to get a solid look in front of Phillies coaches and brass next preseason with a true shot at making the starting rotation. Loewen is confident that he’ll be able to contribute on the mound at the top level.
“I’ve gone from Double-A to the big leagues before and that was my first jump to the big leagues,” Loewen said, when asked if he felt like he was ready to compete at the big league level again. “I feel like I’m ready. I feel like I did when I last got on the mound when I was 24-years-old.”