Seven months after having a screw surgically implanted in his left elbow, Loewen will continue his workouts in front of head trainer Richie Bancells and assistant Brian Ebel. They'll check to make sure some recent tightness in his shoulder is nothing more than the normal discomfort that comes from a long layoff.
"Every time I throw, it gets looser and looser," he said from his Vancouver, British Columbia, home. "I'm not saying it hurts. I haven't taken seven months off since I was a little kid, so naturally, it's going to be tight."
Most important to Loewen is the condition of his elbow, which required the surgery June 14 after a fracture was diagnosed.
"When I throw, I don't feel a thing," he said. "It's like it's nonexistent."
The screw increases blood flow to the elbow and allows the bone to heal faster.
"You never want to go through that," Loewen said. "It's always a last resort. But I know a lot of pitchers have gone through it, and it's such a normal thing now that I really felt comfortable that I'd be able to pitch in the majors again. Everybody around me pretty much told me that's the case. And it's less complicated than Tommy John [ligament reconstruction]. I could have pitched at the end of the season if they really needed me to."
With a 10th straight losing season behind them, the Orioles need Loewen to hold down the third spot in the rotation. He made six starts last year before leaving a May 1 game in Detroit with the elbow injury and going on the disabled list three days later. He was 2-0 with a 3.56 ERA after going 4-1 with a 1.64 ERA in spring training, production that raised expectations even higher for the fourth overall selection in the 2002 amateur draft.
Manager Dave Trembley doesn't anticipate having to place restrictions on Loewen next month unless the trainers recommend it.
"I've talked to him three or four times this offseason, 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."
Said new pitching coach Rick Kranitz: "He should be ready to go, but if I need to give him an extra day between bullpens, I will.
"One of the concerns is, sometimes when something is wrong with one part of your arm and you try to favor it, that becomes a problem with another part. But I don't see any problems at all with him."
Loewen said doctors cleared him to throw in September, but he waited until three weeks ago as a precaution, choosing instead to hit the gym three or four times a week.
"I'm really cautious because I don't want any setbacks," he said. "I'm not doing any crazy 2 1/2 -hour workouts like I did last year. I'm trying to stay healthy."
Loewen made his first throws from less than 60 feet away, but he has progressed to 120 and can "really let it go," he said.
"The first time I threw, I was all over the place. Terrible," he said. "Then I slowly went back further and further and got more confident the more I threw."