09/08/11 1:12 AM ET
Wielding bat, Loewen makes emotional return
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
The move is another monumental step for the former pitcher whose career appeared to be over after he suffered a stress fracture in his left elbow in 2008. Loewen gave up pitching and attempted to make his way back to the Majors as a hitter.
More than three years later he achieved that goal. He now finds himself on Toronto's active roster in a role that he always dreamed about as a kid growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"I always loved to hit more than I liked to pitch," Loewen said. "I think that it wasn't that I guaranteed myself to get back here, just that I knew I was going to enjoy doing it and a lot of people believed in me.
"I had a lot of help along the way to make this possible, and the best part about it is that it's not over yet, it's not a success yet. Just getting here ... was never my intention. I wanted to go as far as I could."
Loewen was a highly touted left-hander out of Chipola Junior College in Florida when Baltimore selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. At the time, he was the highest Canadian ever taken in the Draft, and the possibilities appeared endless.
The 6-foot-6, 222-pounder, pitched in parts of three seasons for the Orioles but had his career marred by injuries. In 2007, it was a stress fracture in his left elbow which required surgery. The following year, the same injury resurfaced, and doctors said he would be required to miss at least 18 months.
Loewen instead decided to try his luck as a hitter. He signed a Minor League free-agent contract with the Blue Jays later that year and began to work his way back to the big leagues.
Fast forward to 2011 and his goal is at least partially complete. Loewen was among six Toronto players to receive callups on Wednesday, and he was immediately inserted into the starting lineup at right field to give Jose Bautista a day off from the field.
Loewen flied out in his first at-bat, struck out in his second but eventually reached base in the sixth when he was hit by a pitch. Two innings later, he got his first Major League hit with a single to right field that helped spark a five-run rally in an 11-10 victory over the Red Sox.
"It was just a thrill," Loewen said. "I came into the game not really knowing what to expect. I was a lot less nervous than I thought I would be. I felt really comfortable out there, and once I got into the flow of the game, I just relaxed and played the way I'm capable of playing."
All in all, the game was a moment that was even more special than when he made his Major League debut for the Orioles on May 23, 2006.
"The first time there was a lot more excitement, but this is just a dream come true to be playing for the Blue Jays as a hitter," said Loewen, who hit .306 with 17 homers and 85 RBIs for Triple-A Las Vegas this year. "Now I'm actually doing what I want to do. It was very satisfactory, and I feel very blessed to still be playing at all."
Drabek aims to end season on high note
TORONTO -- Kyle Drabek has his shot at redemption now that he's back in the Major Leagues at the tail end of a frustrating campaign.
Drabek began the season in Toronto but was demoted to the Minors in mid-June following a lack of command and composure on the mound.
The 23-year-old made his return to the club on Wednesday after he was recalled by the Blue Jays as part of their expanded roster for September.
"It was really more just the frustration that I couldn't help out my team," Drabek said of his early season disappointment. "I think the last games I was only going 3-4 innings, and that had never happened to me in my whole career.
"Being sent down, no one ever wants to do that. But I mean I've seen so many other guys that have done it and then been successful. Thinking about those guys, it helps a little bit, but I knew I just needed to get myself back on track and then I'd be alright."
Drabek joined Triple-A Las Vegas to work through his problems. The numbers weren't exactly impressive as the native of Texas managed to go just 5-4 with a 7.44 ERA and walking 41 batters in 75 innings.
The stats can be deceiving in the Pacific Coast League, though. The league is notoriously tough on pitchers because of the high altitude and poor conditions in a lot of the ballparks.
That type of environment could have been exactly what Drabek needed to learn how to cope when things aren't going his way on the mound.
"It's definitely tough to pitch there," Drabek said. "It seems like all the hitters were hitting over .350. In Vegas, the playing field wasn't the best.
"You would have those innings where you'd have a normal ground ball and it just takes a bad hop. It kind of taught me that it happens and you just have to get over it quickly."
Drabek will begin his work with the Blue Jays pitching out of the bullpen. It's possible a spot will open up in the rotation before the end of the year as both Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez have surpassed career highs in innings pitched and could become candidates to be shut down a week or two early.
For now, none of that matters to Drabek. He's just happy to be back in the big leagues with an opportunity to prove he's not the same pitcher he was in June.
"It wasn't a year that I wanted, but I'm happy to be back up here and show them I'm back to where I used to be," Drabek said.
McGowan a candidate for starting rotation
TORONTO -- Dustin McGowan's solid performance out of the bullpen on Tuesday night has put himself in contention to enter the Blue Jays' starting rotation.
McGowan allowed three runs in four-plus innings against the Red Sox in his first Major League outing since July 8, 2008. It wasn't the pitching line that impressed Toronto the most but his mid-90s velocity and impressive slider-changeup combination.
The Blue Jays are now contemplating moving McGowan out of the bullpen so they can get a better look at his progression before the end of the year.
"Looking at the total number of games remaining," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said, "and how many starts that would include for Dustin to get a true and accurate read, we would look to bump him to 80-85 pitches his next outing, because he has gone three times now in that 75-pitch range.
"Trying to get as accurate a read as we can on everybody that's here, [starting's] part of that discussion."
McGowan arrived at Rogers Centre on Wednesday afternoon feeling no ill effects from his outing the night before. He will throw a side session off flat ground later this week and is a strong candidate to replace left-hander Luis Perez in the starting rotation.
Perez allowed eight runs in just 2 2/3 innings against Boston on Tuesday. The 25-year-old is still scheduled to start on Sunday, but it's possible a change could be made in the coming days.
"There's discussion about that," Farrell admitted. "Right now, we're anticipating Luis going to start on Sunday. We may determine some time in the next couple of days that we may look to make a shift there and start Dustin in that spot.
"Luis has done a very good job for us, first and foremost. Whether he profiles in the rotation, profiles in the bullpen. I think where he has had his best performances is probably coming out of the bullpen."
First baseman Adam Lind likely will be held out of the lineup until Friday because of a sore right wrist. Lind was hit on the wrist during a game against the A's on Aug. 20. The injury isn't severe but created some nagging soreness, and the club has opted to give him a couple of days off.
David Cooper, who was recalled by the Blue Jays on Wednesday, is expected to get the start at first base Thursday. He previously spent 13 games in Toronto and went .121 (4-for-33) with one home run and five RBIs.