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Baltimore Sun

Examining Loewen more closely

The Orioles won't be selling tickets or making it part of their FanFest promotion, but Adam Loewen's visit to Camden Yards next week could hold major importance.

Loewen doesn't sound concerned about the tightness in his left shoulder, saying it has felt looser each time he has thrown in recent days. Manager Dave Trembley told me today that he's not anticipating having to place any restrictions on Loewen in spring training. But he also said he'll know for sure after receiving a report from trainers Richie Bancells and Brian Ebel, who will check out Loewen's shoulder and elbow.

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"I've talked to him three or four times this off-season and we expect that he'll be a full-go once spring training starts," Trembley said. "I told him that we wouldn't do anything different with him than anybody else. Obviously, he's not going out there and throwing 90 pitches, but I know he's ready to go.

"I'll be anxious to get the report from Richie and Brian next week. At this point, I'm told there are no restrictions, but he has to go through the final step of evaluation."

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Pitching coach Rick Kranitz spoke with Loewen over the phone and said the left-hander sounds like he's "very eager."

"He missed most of last year, so he's ready to go," Kranitz said. "I think one thing we have to do is just make sure he's going to be healthy, and we need to put him on his own little pace just to make sure. We'll have plenty of time to get him ready. We've got to be cautious.

"Everything I've heard and been told, he's fine medically and ready to go. But if we need to give him an extra day between bullpens, I will."

The Orioles won't know for sure until Loewen reports to camp, but they'll get a pretty strong hint next week.

Kranitz remembers watching Loewen pitch in spring training last year, his vantage point being the Marlins' dugout. I forgot just how dominant Loewen was until checking his Grapefruit League numbers: 4-1 record, 1.64 ERA in six starts.

"I didn't zone in on him too much, but I do know he's got real good stuff," Kranitz said. "Our hitters were coming back to the dugout and saying what kind of stuff he had."

Unless Erik Bedard is traded – and yes, talks are continuing between the Orioles and Mariners, but the "heating up" part is in question – Trembley breaks down the first four spots in the rotation as Bedard, Jeremy Guthrie, Loewen and Daniel Cabrera. He's already told Loewen that spring training isn't an audition.

"We have real high expectations for him," Trembley said. "What I saw last year is he's really matured. He has a lot of confidence. The guy loves to compete. He wants the ball. And his mechanics have gotten a lot better. His command of his fastball has improved tremendously -- both sides of the plate.

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"What Adam has become is, he's a real student of the game. He watches, he asks a lot of questions, his work ethic is very good and he competes. He's got a tremendous feel right now for the changeup, which I saw last year in spring training. Everybody knew he kind of changes speeds on his fastball, but his changeup was really something that came along."

Sounds like a future No. 1 if Bedard is dealt or leaves as a free agent after 2009. But he needs to be healthy.

"I think, obviously, if Erik is here at the beginning of the season, he's the No. 1. No doubt about it," Loewen said. "And I guess you'd say two, three, four, you could put any of us anywhere. It's just a matter of whether Dave wants to go lefty-righty, and I think that's what he'll probably end up doing. But being No. 3 or No. 5 doesn't matter to me. I'll be out there every fifth day. It's just a question of whether I go against Josh Beckett or Tim Wakefield."

Loewen is following the Bedard trade talks like everyone else and has texted the left-hander a few times over the winter.

"He's not very good at answering his phone, so I leave him alone," Loewen joked.


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