Adam Loewen on his Anything-But-Ordinary Career

Adam Loewen was designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday. His future is thus in limbo, but that’s nothing new for the 32-year-old southpaw. Loewen has become well-acquainted with adversity and uncertainty since being drafted fourth-overall by the Orioles in 2002.

A contract squabble delayed the start of Loewen’s professional career, and he had barely 100 big-league innings under his belt when elbow woes threw a monkey wrench into his pitching aspirations. No longer able to toe the rubber, the Surrey, British Columbia product — a promising hockey player in his formative years — was converted into a position player.

Not surprisingly, ups and downs followed. Loewen had his moments as a slugging outfielder, but there was a lot of swing-and-miss to his game and he never put it all together. A strong 2011 season in hitter-friendly Las Vegas prompted an opportunity with the Blue Jays, but a 6-for-32 cameo in Toronto brought expectations back to earth. A few years later — his elbow no longer barking — he came full circle. Like no one before him had done at the big-league level, the 6-foot-6 Lefty returned to the mound after once leaving it to become a position player.

Signed by the Phillies, Loewen pitched well in the minors in 2014 and 2015. He didn’t pitch well after receiving a call-up to Philadelphia last August. In 20 appearances out of the pen, his ERA was 6.98. This year was much the same. Loewen was effective for Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate, but he subsequently allowed 10 runs in six innings as a D-Back.

Now he’s back to square one — or maybe it’s square three or square four — and what comes next is anyone’s guess. As for the wild journey in his rearview, Loewen took a shot at describing it prior to Sunday’s game.

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Loewen on his anything-but-ordinary career: “If I had to describe it, I’d say it hasn’t been even close to how I thought it would go. Coming up with the Orioles, struggling early on… even the way I signed out of the draft was bizarre. I went to junior college for a year and then signed as a draft-and-follow after being a first-rounder.

“I was just trying to get something fair. Baltimore’s offer was about half of what it was for that slot in the previous year. I had a lot of people around me that I trusted, so it wasn’t as difficult a decision as it might have been. At the same time, walking into that classroom and knowing that I‘d just passed up a couple million dollars was… there was a lot of pressure. What if something happened and I never got another chance? Looking back on it, getting the most I could in that situation, knowing that I ended up blowing out (my arm)… I could have had to live on that the rest of my life.

“When I signed, I pictured myself on the mound, throwing in the big leagues and having a long career. I think that’s what everybody kind of envisions. when they’re drafted. The things I’ve learned over the years… perseverance and being content with what you have — right now, I’m just happy that I’m healthy and can pitch a full season. I think I’ve settled into where I should be, and where I should succeed. With my arm history, I think the bullpen is what’s best suited for me.

“I’ll never know what would have happened had I never hurt my arm (and stayed a starter). There’s no point in sitting here and wondering what it would have been like to have pitched all these years. I could also be wondering what it would have been like had I not chosen baseball, and played hockey my whole life. Where would I be then? Or what if I’d never played sports? There are infinite possibilities if you want to think that way. This is the spot I’m in, and I’m actually proud of my career. All the adversity I’ve gone through has made me a better person.

“When I was thinking of switching to hitting, I was also thinking of switching to hockey. Realistically, there was too big of a gap, though. I was 24 when I switched to hitting and the last time I’d played hockey was when I was 15. So while it crossed my mind — I dreamed about it, as opposed to thinking about it seriously — I guess I was never close to trying a (Tim) Tebow.

“I don’t know for sure, but I heard there was a team that liked me better as hitter (when I was drafted). The Braves were picking somewhere around 20, and I was told they were considering me as a hitter. At that age, I wanted to hit. I actually wanted to do both, and I still kind of want to do both. I’ve done it at the highest level, so if anyone is going to be a two-way player, why not me? Of course, the bullpen really isn’t suited for that. If I was a starter, I’d have four days in between to be a pinch-hitter off the bench.

“If I hurt my arm again? I wouldn’t consider trying to just be a hitter. It would be like starting over, in a way. I guess maybe I’ve already done that — I have started over — but enough is enough. I’m 32 now, so it’s just pitching for me from now on. I’m done with hockey, too.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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frangipard

Cool stuff. I’ve always wondered — well not always, but since teams started to go to seven-man bullpens — if some smart team would try to intentionally develop 25th men that could go both ways. It would have to be a guy in his late 20s that accepts that it’s his only way to be in the majors, but a guy that can eat low-leverage innings and add some pinch-hitting or defensive value would seem to be handy to have around.