Adam Loewen remembers the first time he picked up a bat after five years of pitching at the professional level. He struck out looking at a curveball.
“I did that a lot,” he said.
The left-handed reliever now with the Express has had three professional baseball careers.
He was the fourth overall pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2002 and was the top prospect in their organization for two seasons. Elbow injuries slowed his progress and in 2009, he decided to transition to the outfield.
With no offers as a position player headed into the 2014 season, he went back to his roots and moved back to the mound, signing a two-year minor league contract as a reliever with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“To do what he’s done at the highest level tell you something about the type of person and an athlete he is,” Express manager Jason Wood said. “There were times throughout his career he had some trouble offensively, but that didn’t take him away from the game because he had a good arm.”
The 33-year-old Canadian has been solid out of the Round Rock bullpen this season, boasting a 6-0 record and 4.15 ERA in 31 appearances. He has 39 strikeouts in 30.1 innings pitched and has held opposing batter to a .212 average.
After spending the first couple years of his career in the minors, Loewen made his major-league debut in 2006 and made 22 appearances for Baltimore with 19 starts and won six games in his first year in the big leagues.
He had a stress fracture in his pitching elbow in 2007 and tried to rehab it. When he came back to spring training in 2008, he did it again and spent a lot of time on the disabled list. He made just 13 major league appearances over the two seasons.
With a new focus as a position player, he signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and spent spring training with the major league club before joining the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays to start 2009.
“I had to start from scratch,” he said. “The hitting coaches looked at me as a blank canvas. I hadn’t picked up a bat in five years and it was instinct at first. It took about two years before I felt like I turned a corner.”
He earned his first call-up as an outfielder with the Blue Jays in 2011 and hit his first big league home run against the Orioles, his former team, that same season.
In 77 MLB appearances, he had a .189 average with just one home run and four RBIs. His minor league batting career numbers look a little better with a .262 average to go along with 57 homers and 273 RBIs.
Loewen spent winter of 2014 playing outfield and first base in Venezuela. When he got back and didn’t have a job, he started thrown bullpen sessions on his own. When pro scouts turned up to watch him throw, he didn’t throw very well and didn’t get any offers.
Then the Phillies called him out for a look and he pitched well enough to earn a contract and he spent the 2015 season coming out of the bullpen in High-A and Double-A.
He returned to the big leagues as a reliever with Philadelphia in 2015 and moved to the Arizona Diamondbacks organization last year, making eight appearances with one win and a 15.00 ERA.
“I have to make some mental adjustments to be more consistent and thrown strikes,” Loewen said. “Because I’m always changing and trying to get a job every year, I take a step back because I’m doing so many things different that it’s taking away from just going up there and competing and pitching.”
His pitching mechanics have changed from his first stint as a pitcher to his second as he almost throws sidearm this time around.
Not many major league quality pitcher has stepped in the batter’s box full time. Loewen said his time as an outfielder has helped him become a better pitcher because he’d able to read swings better and know where the holes in the strike zone are.
The biggest thing both he and Wood feel he needs to work on now is consistency. They know he has the talent to place his pitches where they need to be, it’s all about implementing the needed changes.
“Left handed hitters don’t like to face him,” Wood said. “Now it’s all about execution. He’s willing to listen and to learn even at the age he is. He knows he has to get better with his command. When he’s able to do that, he will pitch at the major league level again.”