Jays’ Loewen returns to majors as outfielder

Adam Loewen, courtesy Toronto Blue Jays  (adam250)

Of all the six September call-ups by the Toronto Blue Jays this week, none was as good a story as Adam Loewen’s.

It came to a climax on Wednesday night when the now-outfielder made his debut with a 1-for-3 performance and a run scored against the Boston Red Sox.

The Vancouver native hasn’t appeared in a major league game since 2008, when he started four times as a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, losing twice and posting an ERA of 8.02.

The combination of Loewen’s constant control problems early on and a stress fracture in his left arm caused the Orioles to place him on the disabled list, where he missed the next two months of the season.

While the left arm that once made Loewen a fourth overall pick never recovered to the point where he could pitch with the velocity and control he once did, Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos was impressed with his improvement and seemed confident that the long and turbulent road of switching to being a positional player was worth the ride.

“His swing is so much better than when we first signed him, it’s night and day,” Anthopolous said. “He can draw a walk, he’s moving better in the outfield, great athlete, great makeup. It’s just a great success story for him to do what he did to get back to this level.”

Three years ago, the Jays gave the left-hander a rare opportunity to prove himself as a position player, starting back at Class-A Dunedin, and then moving on to play one year in New Hampshire before finally landing a spot on the Vegas squad for the 2011 season.

It was the numbers he put up playing in the desert this year that spoke wonders for his improbable turnaround, as he finished with a .306 average, 85 RBIs, 17 home runs and 11 steals, making it impossible for Anthopolous and the Jays to deny him another crack at the big leagues.

“How many guys can actually do that and get back not as a charity case, but as someone that earned it?,” Anthopolous said. “He deserves it probably more than all these guys, the fact that he got to this point is just a bonus.

“The staff raves about him, it’s a great problem to have if he does click and he’s someone we can count on going forward.”

Making the transformation from being a starting pitcher to a legitimate major-league outfielder is one of the hardest transitions to make in baseball and is a feat that is extremely rare in the big leagues, which makes Loewen’s start in right field against the Red Sox that much more special.

Accompanying Loewen on the trip to Toronto include the highly anticipated return of right-handed pitcher Kyle Drabek, along with fellow pitchers Brad Mills, Danny Farquhar and Chad Beck, with first basement David Cooper getting the call as well.