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Loewen's debut begins the debate


So, what do the Orioles do now?

What do you do when you watch Adam Loewen look like every bit the inexperienced young pitcher that he is, yet still pitch well enough that he probably deserves to stay in the rotation?

That's the issue facing Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo and pitching coach Leo Mazzone, or at least that's the issue that should be facing them. They have indicated that Bruce Chen likely will reclaim his slot later this week, though he is 0-5 and still trying to figure out what happened to his command.

Loewen gave up three earned runs on six hits over five innings, which isn't bad for his debut as a major league starter. Never mind that the New York Yankees kept $70 million worth of heart-of-the-lineup guys on the bench and pretty much left the afternoon up to Randy Johnson; it still was a solid performance for a young pitcher whom the Orioles consider one of the cornerstones of their long-term future.

If you want to nit-pick, he threw too many pitches and "got a little cute" with his breaking stuff, according to one member of the Orioles player development department, but he kept the Orioles in the game, which is more than can be said lately for a couple of the regular members of the rotation.

Here's my take. Those were still the Yankees out there, and Loewen maintained his composure in a matchup against one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the sport. Maybe he's not completely ready for prime time, but if you can learn up here without hurting yourself or your team, why not send him back out there and see how things play out?

It's just possible that the future already is better than the present.

Conventional baseball wisdom tells you not to rush the guys you really believe are headed for stardom, but I've never been much for leaving good innings in the minor leagues.

Orioles vice president of baseball operations Jim Duquette apparently feels the same way.

"My feeling is that he needs to pitch every fifth day," Duquette said yesterday. "If we think he can do it here, that's the preference."

After the Yankees' 6-5, 10-inning victory, Perlozzo said that a decision would be made soon, but it wasn't hard to read the look on his face when he described Loewen's demeanor during a tough situation in the fifth inning.

He went to the mound intending to take Loewen out of the game, but the 22-year-old left-hander gave off all the right signals, so Perlozzo left him in to get out of the jam.

"I liked him," Perlozzo said. "He was a competitor out there. I went out in the fifth and I had lifting him in my mind. He said he was OK ... that he just needed to make a couple of pitches. I thought it was good to see that."

There was talk before the game that Loewen's debut as a starter was going to be a one-shot deal, but it sure didn't sound like that afterward.

"He's one of our kids," Perlozzo said. "Sooner or later, you've got to see what he's made of. I think he passed the test."

It still is possible that the corporate decision of the coaches and the co-general managers will be to send Loewen back to the bullpen ... or back to the minor leagues, but I have to assume that club officials are as curious as I am how he'll do in his next start.

Loewen, of course, can't wait to get back out there.

"It was awesome," he said. "It was just unfortunate that we didn't get the win."

The Yankees took that possibility away from Loewen in the middle innings, but there is one thing that nobody could take away from him. He made his first major league start against Randy Johnson and held his own. Neither got a decision.

"It was pretty cool," he said. "Opportunities like that don't come around too often, and this possibly could be his last year. It was an honor just to be out on the field with him."

Now, he has to wait and see what team he'll be on the field with the next time he takes the mound as a starter.

"Hopefully, I'd like to stay in the rotation," Loewen said, "but maybe now is not the time. That's up to Sam Perlozzo and the coaching staff. It's not up to me."

Duquette said the decision may come down to something he calls "pitchability" - the ability to throw strikes consistently and command several pitches - but it is a call that can't be made in a vacuum.

It is possible that Loewen's pitchability is marginal, yet still better than some of the other pitchers in the Orioles' rotation.

"Therein lies the difficulty in answering the question," Duquette said. "You take into account all the factors, and that is one of the factors."

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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