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Toronto Blue Jays' Russ Adams steals home and beats Baltimore Orioles pitcher Adam Loewen to the...

Toronto Blue Jays' Russ Adams steals home and beats Baltimore Orioles pitcher Adam Loewen to the plate on a wild pitch in the second inning Tuesday night. (Toronto Sun/Stan Behal)

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

Canadian Adam Loewen of the Baltimore Orioles made his first major-league start June 3 against New York Yankees left-hander Randy Johnson.

He then had back-to-back starts against Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, the second of which was last night at Rogers Centre, a game Toronto won 7-1.

Johnson and Halladay have combined to win 356 games and six Cy Young Awards. Loewen's next start will be at Shea Stadium against future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine of the New York Mets.

"You have to beat the best sooner or later," Loewen said, after allowing five hits and five earned runs in 52/3 innings last night for his first major-league loss.

And it doesn't get any easier.

"We have a couple of off-days next week and his start might he bumped. If that happens, he'll get John Smoltz when we play in Atlanta," Orioles GM Mike Flanagan said. "One start after (likely facing Javier Vazquez of the Chicago White Sox), he could face Oakland's Barry Zito.

"By the time this stretch is over, he'll think this is a higher league than it actually is."

Flanagan knows all about breaking in and facing the best. His first major-league start the final day of the 1975 season at Yankee Stadium was against Larry Gura. He then made a spot start against the Kansas City Royals' Dennis Leonard, who was on his way to a 17-10 season in 1976.

Out of the bullpen, Flanagan lost to the Minnesota Twins' Bill Campbell, the American League Fireman of the Year in 1976-77, and future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, then of the Boston Red Sox.

Flanagan then started against Ken Brett of the White Sox and Bill Singer of the Twins, who would hook up opening day 1977 at Exhibition Stadium, with Singer starting for the Jays. Then, he lost to one-time Cy Young Award winner Vida Blue and received a no-decision against the redoubtable Tommy Boggs of the Texas Rangers.

With an 0-5 career record, Flanagan beat the Kansas City Royals and Doug Bird 7-1, Sept. 1, 1976, with a complete-game six-hitter for his first win. He went on to win 166 more games in his 18-year career, including 26 with the Jays after arriving at the trade deadline in 1987.

Loewen is only the second pitcher to open against former Cy Young winners. Amaury Telemaco made his debut with the Chicago Cubs in 1996 against Doug Drabek, Greg Maddux and Glavine.

So in his first three starts, he has faced the Yanks in Baltimore, the Jays on national TV and then the Jays in Toronto.

"I wasn't as nervous in warmup (last night)," Loewen said. "My first game at our park, there were 48,000 people there ... I've never pitched before that. Seemed like half were Yanks fans."

There were only 1,073 days between the time the O's signed Loewen -- May 27, 2003 -- and his first game, a relief appearance in Seattle. Selected fourth overall in North America in the June 2002 draft, it took the O's and Loewen's advisors until hours before the signing deadline to make a deal, preventing him from re-entering the 2004 draft.

Loewen was given a major-league deal of $4.02 million US, including a $3.2 million signing bonus. Since he's on a major-league deal, he'll be out of options next spring.

"He'd have to go through waivers to be sent down," Flanagan said. "At this time he wouldn't clear."

Loewen, of Surrey, B.C., a product of the Fraser Valley Chiefs and the Canadian national junior team, gave Canadian baseball two shots in the arm: the $3.2-million bonus turned heads and pitching 32/3 scoreless innings for Team Canada in an 8-6 upset win over Team USA in the World Baseball Classic helped, too.

"The game against the U.S. was the highlight of my season, but I'm paid to win games for the Orioles," Loewen said.

Now, if can only face a starter who isn't the ace of the staff.


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