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Former Oriole Loewen faces old team for first time

Adam Loewen said he's not as emotional this weekend as he was Wednesday, when he made his debut as an outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays — more than three years after he pitched his final game for the Orioles.

But he's not acting like facing his old club is routine.

"I came up with the Orioles. I still watch a lot of their games because I am pretty much a fan of the Orioles. I was drafted by them, I know all the guys. I know the awesome people in the organization that are running it now," Loewen, the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft who never realized his pitching potential because of injuries, said Friday.

"As much as I wanted to be a Baltimore Oriole, I thought this would be the best situation for me. But, really, it will be emotional. Because as much as I want to be on the other side, I think this is the right spot for me. But I was torn between the two."

Loewen, 27, was recalled this week from Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit .306 with 17 homers, 85 RBIs and a .377 on-base percentage in 134 games. He played right field Wednesday, going 1-for-3 and collecting his first major league hit (he was 0-for-2 in interleague plate appearances with the Orioles).

He didn't start in Friday's series opener but pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Saturday's game, getting hit by a pitch from Orioles closer Kevin Gregg to load the bases on the way to the Blue Jays' 5-4 win.

"I wouldn't have [attempted the transition] if I didn't think I could, but now that I am here, I am kind of amazed at what has gone on," said Loewen, the first player since Rick Ankiel to make it to the big leagues in separate stints as a pitcher and hitter. "But it definitely is not over yet. It's just the beginning. This is definitely an achievement, but I want to do more than play just a couple games."

A native of British Columbia, Loewen ruffled some feathers in October 2008, when he decided to sign with Toronto instead of attempting his comeback as an outfielder with an Orioles club that signed him to a $4 million package as an amateur. Orioles management thought it had a handshake agreement with Loewen when he was released from the 40-man roster.

"I did feel bad about it, but, at the same time, how many guys do professional organizations release every day that they say, 'Oh, you are going to be the guy for us?' You can look at it that way," he said. "But at the end of the day, I really had to do what was best for me and what I thought I could succeed the best at."

After getting phone calls from Blue Jays icon Cito Gaston and then-assistant general manager Alex Anthopoulos and receiving a two-year commitment, Loewen signed with the only big league organization in his native country.

"Truthfully, that kind of blew me away," he said. "Wow, the [Jays'] organization really wants me, and they are going to give me a shot."

In 2004, Loewen was Baseball America's 13th best prospect overall, and the Orioles were salivating over the left-hander's 6-foot-6 frame and impressive repertoire. But elbow injuries — specifically stress fractures a year apart — made it difficult for him to stay on the field and, finally, to pitch at all.

"You just felt sorry for him. It's one of those things you can't do anything about," said Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, one of Loewen's best friends on the Orioles. "He had one other option, and he took that route. And to get back up here to the big leagues the way he has done, it is pretty unbelievable."

As an Oriole, Loewen was 8-8 with a 5.38 ERA in 35 games (29 starts) over parts of three seasons. He struck out 134 batters and walked 106 while allowing 163 hits in 164 innings. He said he's not sure what to expect if he returns to Baltimore as a Blue Jay, but he played for New Hampshire at Double-A Bowie last year and was treated well by the fans in Maryland.

"They were great. Nobody heckled me; there were a couple cheers. I was really excited about that. I thought I was going to get booed," he said. "I went out early to make sure I signed autographs for everybody.

"That was kind of my apology to them," he joked.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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