Loewen's on verge of remarkable comeback

Adam Loewen, seen here when he was pitching for the Orioles, is lighting up the Las Vegas 51s as he...

Adam Loewen, seen here when he was pitching for the Orioles, is lighting up the Las Vegas 51s as he awaits a call from the Blue Jays. (QMI Agency file photo)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:36 PM ET

TORONTO - When oh when are they ever going to wake up at 1 Blue Jays Way?

When will they bring him up?

Enough is enough at Las Vegas!

Isn’t it about time?

We’re not talking about third baseman Brett Lawrie, out with a non-displaced fracture to a bone in the back of his left hand.

Not outfielder Eric Thames who hit .286 in 13 games with the Jays earlier this season.

And not outfielder Travis Snider, batting .281 at Vegas, and .304 with three RBIs in his previous 10 games, heading into Thursday’s game in Tucson.

Who then?

Are there any more Las Vegas 51s worth mention other than maybe Chris Woodward?

What about Adam Loewen, this being draft week and all?

Nine years ago Loewen was selected fourth over-all by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2002 draft.

True, the Jays don’t have a pressing need in the outfield, but is Loewen a better option than platooning DH Edwin Encarnacion?

“What he’s so close to accomplishing now, getting back to the majors as a hitter, is more impressive than going in the first round as a pitcher,” said Walt Burrows, Canadian director of the Major League Scouting Bureau.

“It’s so much easier going from hitter to a pitcher.”

Loewen, with 10 homers, 42 RBIs, a .325 average and a .987 OPS in 54 games, is in his third year re-learning to hit after being in the Orioles’ rotation.

“And he started in 2009 in the Florida State League, a pitcher’s league, not the Gulf-Coast against guys out of high school.”

Loewen was faced with a decision after breaking his elbow a second time in 2008. Was his career over? Does he have surgery, go through rehab and maybe have his elbow break again? Or does he re-define himself?

He chose to hit.

“Kudos to the Jays for giving him the chance,” Burrows said. “He wasn’t successful right away, he hung with it, especially going from the majors to Dunedin.”

Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams, coached Loewen for three years with the junior team.

“He was the best high school player in the world,” said Hamilton, over the phone from Ottawa. “I truly believe he would have been a first rounder as a hitter and position player if he decided not to pitch in high school. He played the game with an incredible ease.”

At the 2002 world junior championship in Sherbrooke, Que., Loewen played right field — the Orioles did not want him to pitch — and hit .713.

Burrows’ job is to examine and dissect a player, grade him and place an over-all future potential (OFP) number on him to give to his bosses.

“I’m not telling you what the number was, but it’s the highest I’ve ever put on a player,” said Burrows from Little Rock, Ark.

He saw London’s Jamie Romak collect two hits and Toronto’s Tim Smith foul off three pitches and then hit a 95-mph hour fastball up the middle for a walk-off single as the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (a Kansas City farm team) won the other night.

From there he goes to the Tournament of Stars where Team USA is selected from 160 players. Burrows has scouted the tourney since 1996 and has never given a higher OFP than the one he gave Loewen.

“Adam was 6-foot-5, 215 pounds out of high school, a good hockey and volleyball player, very athletic,” Burrows said. “It’s really rare to see guys with speed, size and strength. He was blessed.”

Burrows says Rick Ankiel switching from a starting pitcher to an outfielder is the only comparison he can think of, to what Loewen is trying.

Scouts have long memories and Burrows recalls Team USA’s Scott Kazmir facing Loewen in Joplin, Mo. Kazmir threw five scoreless innings. B.J. Upton homered off Loewen in a 1-0 win.

Loewen’s nickname pitching for coach Dennis Springenatic’s Whalley Chiefs was “Big” as in big game.

“It’s been quite a journey for Loewen,” Burrows says. “It’s really quite an amazing story.”

With only one chapter left to write.


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