03/19/11 1:25 PM ET
Loewen navigates plate on path back to bigs
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
Loewen is entering his third season in the outfield after the former first-round Draft pick was forced to give up his pitching career following a series of devastating injuries.
The 26-year-old is trying to reinvent himself as a right fielder, but the transition hasn't been easy. He has had no choice but to play year-round baseball to acclimate himself to hitting after spending almost six seasons away from the offensive side of the game.
"I was completely lost," Loewen said of his first season. "The only thing I could do was play defense. I really didn't swing the bat well, I just didn't know what I was doing and it was frustrating.
"The second year, it was more of the same. I went through some good periods, but I really didn't know what made me successful even when I was playing well. This offseason I kind of figured it out."
2010 Spring Training - Toronto Blue Jays
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Loewen's career in the outfield began when he signed a Minor League contract with the Blue Jays in October of 2008. After one year in Class A, he made the jump to Double-A New Hampshire, where he hit .246 with 13 home runs and 70 RBIs.
When the season came to an end, Loewen was sent to the Arizona Fall League and played 14 games for the Peoria Javelinas. The native of Vancouver, British Columbia, hit .333 (18-for-54) with five home runs and 19 RBIs.
Even though it was a brief stint, Loewen says it was there that he began to figure things out. He went on to the Dominican Winter League to continue his work and appear in another nine games. His success at the plate followed, as he homered twice and knocked in seven runs while posting a .355 batting average and a 1.034 OPS.
Through all the extra work, Loewen began to understand his mechanics at the plate and what made him successful.
"The best hitting coach is yourself," said Loewen, who also played for the Canadian Senior Men's National Team during the offseason. "You know what you need to do to get ready, and if you don't, you're kind of lost out there. You can't have guys telling you what to do. In order to be successful you need to know it for yourself.
"I went through a lot of changes over the last two years, but I got to the point where I know what my swing is now and I can repeat it."
Loewen appeared to have a bright future when he was selected by the Orioles with the fourth overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. He rocketed through the club's Minor League system and made his Major League debut at just 22 years old.
In his first season, Loewen went 6-6 with a 5.37 ERA over 22 appearances. After gaining that initial experience, he began the following year in the rotation and posted a 3.56 ERA over six starts.
In early May, though, he suffered a stress fracture in his left elbow that required surgery. He returned in 2008 only to have the exact same thing happen again. Doctors told Loewen a second procedure on the elbow would force him to miss at least 18 months of action.
|"My swing has never been this ready before."|
|-- Adam Loewen|
Instead of choosing the difficult -- and potentially impossible -- rehab, Loewen opted to give up his pitching career and try to make it as a hitter. It was a skill that had once served him well, but that had come six years before, while he was still in school.
The transition didn't come easy. The long time away from hitting regularly affected not only his swing at the plate but his mental approach in the batter's box.
"I was still trying to be a pitcher up there and trying to think about what he's going to throw," said Loewen, who hit .353 with a homer and 38 RBIs while pitching at for Chipola Junior College. "I think that can only work against me, but I tried to do it my first year, tried to think along with them.
"But to have success, you really have to pick out what you think you're going to get and stick with it the whole at-bat, ... Now it's about getting ready at the plate and being prepared for the fastball."
For a brief moment during the offseason, Loewen thought his time in the Blue Jays' organization might be coming to an end. Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos left the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder unprotected during the 2010 Rule 5 Draft.
In the weeks leading up to the Winter Meetings, Loewen was mentioned as a potential candidate to be selected. He monitored the situation, but once the Draft began, Loewen realized he wasn't the type of player teams seemed to be targeting.
"I had a really good [Arizona] Fall League, so I thought anything was possible," Loewen said. "I kind of paid attention to it, but after looking at it, they took three middle infielders. So I think clubs have a set approach of what they want to accomplish with the Rule 5 and they don't just go after anybody who they think is going to be big league ready. They go after very specific needs."
Not that he has a problem with that. While Loewen would like to make it back to the Major Leagues as soon as possible, he also realizes there is more work to be done.
It has been a long road to travel, one that likely will take him through Triple-A Las Vegas this season. There he will continue to get the everyday at-bats he needs -- something that would not have been guaranteed if he had been taken in the Rule 5.
"My swing has never been this ready before," Loewen said. "But I don't have a problem with taking a step back to get the at-bats that I need. I think that can only make me better."