Adam Loewen has already done the unthinkable, making it back to the majors as an outfielder after injuries derailed his career as a pitcher.
What if he can actually outdo that? What if the Surrey native can return to the bigs again on the mound?
Loewen, 30, scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings Saturday for the Reading Fightin Phils in what eventually became a 4-3 win for the Philadelphia Phillies’ Double A affiliate over the visiting Altoona Curve. Loewen struck out four and walked three.
Unable to land a job as a hitter this spring, Loewen figured that his arm was healthy after five seasons away from pitching. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound former Whalley Chief standout started throwing bullpen sessions, and impressed the Phillies enough that they signed him to a minorleague contract.
After Saturday, the left-hander has allowed just one earned run in his last 20 innings with Reading. He had started slowly, fashioning an 0-1 record and a 5.40 ERA through his first five starts with the Fightin Phils. He’s now 2-4, with a 3.15 ERA through 13 starts.
He has the best ERA of Reading’s starters. Loewen isn’t blowing away hitters as he once did (53 strikeouts in 80 innings) and his control can fluctuate (35 walks), but hitters aren’t making solid contact often (64 hits). That translates to a .221 opposing batting average.
Philadelphia carried a 52-65 record into Sunday. They’re last in the National League East. They could easily add Loewen when MLB rosters expand in September.
The Orioles made the then hardthrowing Loewen the fourth overall pick in 2002, two spots before the Kansas City Royals chose Zack Greinke, three places prior to the Milwaukee Brewers selected Prince Fielder and five slots ahead of the Colorado Rockies snagging North Delta native and UBC hurler Jeff Francis.
Loewen made 35 appearances, including 29 starts, with the Orioles over three years, and wound up 8-8 with a 5.38 ERA.
His last game on the mound in the majors came on July 6, 2008, when he went one inning out of the bullpen in an 11-10 loss to the Texas Rangers.
"I felt like I left a lot out there, a lot of potential that was untapped, really," Loewen recently told the Philadelphia Daily News.
"What it came down to was I still wanted to play. I love this game. I didn’t want to take the jersey off yet.
"As soon as I got on the mound, it just felt normal."
Loewen suffered a stress fracture in his pitching elbow in 2007 that required a surgery to insert a screw to stabilize the joint. He re-aggravated the injury the following season. Loewen threw 112 and one-third innings for the Orioles in 2006; he pitched 51 and two-thirds the following two seasons combined.
Loewen had doubled as a slugger with Whalley. He spent the winter of 2009 working out in Arizona with fellow Canadians Russell Martin and Justin Morneau, both established big-league position players at the time. He showed the Toronto Blue Jays enough that they signed him to a free-agent deal.
He made it up to the big club in 2011, getting into 14 games. He hit .187, with one home run and four RBIs for the Blue Jays. Over five seasons in the minors, ranging from Advanced Single A to Triple A, he hit .263, with 57 homers and 273 RBIs. He batted .269, with 15 homers and 60 RBIs in 115 games last season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Toronto’s Double A club.