Friday, July 25, 2008

The Lesson of Adam Loewen

Last season, Adam Loewen was one of the few players the Orioles considered key parts of the Orioles future. He was walking a number of batters, but few could hit his stuff. He won two of his first four starts. The only problems he had were fixable: get him to pitch more than six innings a game.

Now, the Orioles are trying to salvage his career.

The Canadian sensation was the Orioles first pick in the 2002 MLB Draft (4th overall) and didn't take too long to reach the majors. But injuries took away a possible strong 2007 season and now his pitching career. Loewen suffered a stress fracture in his left arm, his pitching side, and surgery is estimated to have taken 18 months if he chose to take it. Really, it isn't worth it, 18 months is a long time and there is no guarantee that he'll return to form.

The injury of Loewen shows the importance of depth in pitching. The Orioles were hoping Loewen would be part of the Orioles future; not surprising when you draft him in the first round. The Birds have suffered many injuries at pitching, including Matt Albers for the year this season as well as Chris Ray and Danny Baez needing Tommy John surgery last year.

A team can't expect to run with just five starters and a six/seven member bullpen all season and win. Just ask the Yankees (not Hank, who would blame Girardi and A-Rod and everyone that isn't him). You need to have depth in triple-A to be able to replace players that get injured or go through slumps. The Orioles triple-A system isn't strong, hence why pitchers like Radhames Liz (4-2, 7.19 ERA) and Garrett Olsen (6-5, 6.11 ERA) have to stay here; the Orioles don't have anyone to replace them effectively.

As the rebuilding process continues, Loewen's injury shows how much work Andy MacPhail and the Orioles need to do before real results can get done. Depth in the farm system needs to continue growing and future stars (like Nick Markakis) need to be signed to long term deals. As Orioles fans have always been told, this will take a while.

(Photo credit: Major League Baseball)

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