The Phillies have selected the contract of lefty Adam Loewen, a noteworthy story since Loewen’s first appearance with the Phillies will mark the third time in nine years that he’s debuted with a new big-league team, and his last opportunity came as a hitter, not as a pitcher.
The Orioles made Loewen the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft as a pitcher, ahead of future stars like Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and Prince Fielder. He quickly climbed through the minors despite control problems, joining the Orioles’ rotation in 2006, when he was 22.
Two years later, though, elbow injuries necessitated a career change, and Loewen announced that he would instead become an outfielder and first baseman instead. “That was a crazy decision,” says Loewen, via Baseball America’s Alexis Brudnicki. “I don’t know where I came up with the (guts) to do that.”
The Orioles allowed Loewen to depart via free agency after the 2008 season, and the Canadian-born player signed on with the Blue Jays. He had several modestly productive offensive seasons in the Jays and Mets systems and currently boasts a .262/.355/.429 minor league line, and he returned to the big leagues as a hitter in 2011, but only briefly.
After becoming a free agent following the 2013 season, Loewen played in the Venezuelan Winter League. There, he discovered that his arm no longer hurt when he tried to pitch, as CSNPhilly.com’s John Finger wrote last year. “I had five years to rest my arm from the injury that ended my pitching career at the time,” Loewen explained.
The Phillies heard that Loewen was working out as a pitcher, and they signed him after a tryout in Arizona. Loewen spent most of last season in the rotation at Double-A Reading, where he battled control problems (4.6 BB/9) but was effective overall. Then he took a big step forward in the high minors in 2015, still walking plenty of batters but increasing his strikeout rate to a robust 11.3 K/9 and posting a 2.01 ERA in 58 1/3 innings.
That’s earned him a spot on the big-league roster with the rebuilding Phillies, and he’s hoping to make the most of it, as CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes. “I’ve been really blessed to have a third opportunity,” Loewen says. “I feel lucky to be here.”
Loewen is 31, but he only has two-plus years of service time under his belt, so the Phillies could conceivably control him for several more years if the experiment goes well. If the Phillies do retain him, he’ll likely be eligible for arbitration after the season.