Less than three months after giving recent first-round draft pick Adam Loewen a $4 million contract, the Orioles have shut him down for the season, hoping to prevent the kind of arm injury that has derailed so many of their young pitching prospects.
Loewen, 19, is not injured now, Orioles minor league director Doc Rodgers stressed. But Loewen's left arm has already been through a lot this year, starting in January, when his season began at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla.
The fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft, Loewen pitched 59 innings for Chipola before finally signing with the Orioles in late May. The Orioles sent him to minicamp in Sarasota, Fla., and then started him at short-season Single-A Aberdeen.
In seven games for the IronBirds, Loewen went 0-2 with a 2.70 ERA over 23 1/3 innings. In his most recent start on Sunday, he went 3 2/3 innings against New Jersey.
"We gave him a taste of professional baseball, and he's starting to show signs, not of physical fatigue but mental fatigue," Rodgers said. "He's had a whirlwind last two years. He's had a lot on his mind for a 19-year-old."
Rodgers said Loewen will begin an offseason conditioning program designed to have him ready to pitch again by mid-February.
Can Groom extend mark?
The Orioles have 50 games remaining in their season, and left-hander Buddy Groom needs to appear in 28 to extend his record.
Groom is the only pitcher in major league history to appear in 70 or more games in seven consecutive years, and a career-best 1.60 ERA last year made it easy for manager Mike Hargrove to use him. But Groom hasn't been the lock-down specialist and setup man of the past.
Charged with two more runs in one-third of an inning Wednesday, Groom had his ERA rise to 6.46 in 42 outings. Simple math says he still can reach 70, but what about logic? "I haven't pitched well enough to deserve to get in that many games," he said, "so I can't really fault anybody but myself."
Groom, 38, got the first out in the ninth Wednesday before catcher A.J. Pierzynski blooped a single into left field. He jammed Torii Hunter, who punched a single into center. His next pitch grazed Jacque Jones, loading the bases and bringing Hector Carrasco from the bullpen. Matthew LeCroy doubled to left, and two more runs were charged to Groom as he sat in the dugout.
"Hector never should have had to come into the game if I can do my job," he said. "That's the way it's been going. A jam-shot here, a flare there, and you're in trouble. And I haven't been able to get out of it.
"There's nobody to blame but myself."
Pitcher Jason Johnson is trying to get the starting time moved up for the Aug. 25 game in New York against the Yankees because the Orioles fly to Oakland, Calif., where they will play the Athletics the next night.
Johnson has contacted the players association, but the game still is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
"They agree with me," said Johnson, the Orioles' union rep. "They thought it should be moved to a day game, even if it's 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. That would give us a few more hours."
The final decision rests with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.