• Apr

    Loewen Situation and Around the Farm

    Even the most pessimistic fan has to admit this is fun. Another great comeback last night as this team continues to show if nothing else, it has a ton of heart.


    The numbers just don’t back up the fact that this team is 12-9 and in second place behind the Red Sox. This team has a clean up hitter with a .675 OPS, a starting catcher with a .585 OPS and a shortstop tandem that do not have an OBP or SLG percentage over .300.


    It must be the starting pitching then right? Well, not really. The Orioles only have two starters averaging over six innings a start (Jeremy Guthrie and Daniel Cabrera) and not surprisingly, they also happen to be the only starters who have struck out more batters than they have walked. Brian Burres is tied for the team lead in wins (2) and leads the team in ERA (3.63) but his BB-K ratio (10-9), WHIP (1.62) and batting average against (.281) are a lot closer to the peripherals of last year when he put up a 5.95 ERA.


    Steve Trachsel is doing what we expected him to do by keeping the team in the ball game three out of his four starts, but he’s going to have his meltdown starts like when he couldn’t get out of the third inning against Toronto on April 15th.




    The worst of all the starters has been Adam Loewen, who now may have an elbow injury after not escaping the third innings last night. Let’s face it, the only reason Loewen was even in the major league rotation this year was because of the ridiculous major league contract the Orioles awarded him when he signed out of community college. See, the Orioles didn’t want to pay the big bonus all up front so they spread it out over several years by offering him a major league contract. Loewen of course was not as polished as originally thought and he ended up eating valuable minor league options and was forced to the major leagues before he was ready. After losing most of last season to the elbow injury and his poor performance this spring, if he had minor league options he almost assuredly would have started the year in Triple-A.


    Don’t get me wrong, Loewen has a great competitor’s streak and has the stuff to be a top line start in the major leagues, but he continues to be a work in progress that has to do that work at the major league level.


    Regardless, if Loewen is feeling any discomfort, the Orioles should put him on the disabled list immediately. This will allow him some rest and hopefully, if it’s nothing serious, it allows the Orioles to send him on a nice long rehab through the minors where he can work on his hit and miss command.


    It’s tough to say who should take Loewen’s spot in the rotation although Matt Albers would be the most obvious candidate. The only problem with moving Albers out of his current role is that he’s been incredibly effective and valuable in his current role allowing just one run in nine and two-third innings of relief.


    Along with Jim Johnson (8.2 shut out innings) and the amazing rule five draftee Randor Bierd (12.2 shutout innings), Albers has consistently kept the team in games which has allowed them to make these come backs. Albers did pitch well in his only start this year, allowing just ione run over five innings, but he hasn’t been stretched out much this year so they may want to go with someone starting right now.


    So who goes into the rotation if not Albers? One possibility is Garrett Olson (1.61 ERA, 24:7 K:BB, .229 BAVG in four starts at Norfolk). Olson has pitched into the sixth inning in each of his last three starts and has walked just one batter over this span. He’s due to pitch tomorrow night so it’ll be interesting to see if he makes the start. Hayden Penn is another option. He starts tonight and has gone seven innings in his last two starts allowing just three runs overall in those starts while striking out nine in his latest.


    Personally, I’d keep Albers and Johnson where they are at and bring up Olson. He’s pitching well and it’s time to see what he can do now that he seems to have shaken his command troubles.


    The other good news is that Radhames Liz finally got back on track, striking out ten in seven innings of work last night while allowing just two runs over seven innings of work.


    So the good news is the Orioles have a lot of alternatives if Loewen has to miss some time.


    Edited on April 25, 1:08 PM: The Orioles have put Loewen on the disabled list and recalled infielder Eider Torres from Norfolk. Although this probably means Albers will go into the rotation, recalling Torres seems like a head-scratcher unless it corresponded with taking Hernandez or Fahey off the roster. Torres played seven games at shortstop at Norfolk and committed one error. He has a career .955 fielding percentage in 90 games at shortstop in his minor league career which has mostly been spent at second base. I have no problem giving him a chance at shortstop considering our current options, but why wasn’t Hernandez of Fahey dropped? I’d rather have 13 pitchers then three utility infielders.


    Around the Minors



    Shortstop Alex Cintron has started off slowly with Norfolk putting up a .564 OPS in his first five games. If he can play defense at all he’s got to still be better option than Luis Hernandez or Brandon Fahey with the Orioles. With Jamie Walker struggling with the O’s, left-hander Albert Castillo may open some eyes. The 32-year old Cuban has allowed just one hit to left-handers all season and held them to a .071 average. With a  low ¾ delivery, he’s strictly a LOOGY with right-handers batting .273 off him.



    Second Baseman Jonathan Tucker has never really garnered any prospect love from us or anyone else, but the 24-year old has put up some good numbers so far at Double-A. Just three months older than Nolan Reimold, Tucker has put up a .881 OPS with a .405 OBP and a 10:6 BB:K ratio. He’s also made just one error in 14 games at second base and has played a little third as well. Bad news for Chorye Spoone. The 22-year old was placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder and will undergo treatment in Baltimore. Let’s hope this is just a precaution because if not, it’s the first significant injury to our major pitching prospects this year.


    It’s great to see Billy Rowell back playing. After rolling his ankle in the first game of the year, Rowell missed over two weeks with the injury, but now is back to 100%. He’s batting .333 with three RBI in his first three games back.



    It’s nice to see third baseman Tyler Henson batting .306 with a .424 SLG, but it’s getting a little concerning that the 20-year old is yet to walk in 2008. It’s hard to imagine going 20 straight games without getting a walk, but Henson has managed to do it. The good news he’s only struck out 10 times in his first 85 at bats but it sure would be nice to see him take a walk occasionally. He’s too good of hitter for this to continue in my opinion.

    Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board

Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.