Pitcher Loewen delivering hope for O's rotation

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Ray takes comfort in fresh arm despite shaky 3-hit appearance

March 22, 2007|By Roch Kubatko and Jeff Zrebiec | Roch Kubatko and Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTERS

JUPITER, FLA. -- Orioles pitcher Adam Loewen said he was exactly where he wanted to be yesterday - and he didn't mean Roger Dean Stadium.

Loewen held the St. Louis Cardinals without a run over five innings in a 4-1 victory. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out five.

"I didn't have my best outing today, but I think I was aggressive enough in the strike zone," he said. "I used my movement to my advantage and made them get themselves out. When I had chances to strike somebody out, I did that. I was really encouraged by today, but I can pitch better than that."

Because he signed a major league contract when the Orioles drafted him with the fourth overall pick in 2002, Loewen must stay with the team all season or be exposed to waivers. He's lined up to be the fourth starter.

"He takes his game serious. He takes his work serious," manager Sam Perlozzo said.

"You cross your fingers, but I think the kid has gone about his business the way we'd like to see him go about it. The last thing we wanted to see was him struggle in the spring and then have a question mark. We feel like he's OK. He's going to be fine. He might be better than fine."

Mixed outing for Ray

Normally, Chris Ray would have relished the opportunity to get out of a jam, but when Perlozzo came to the mound in the eighth inning of Tuesday night's game with two New York Mets on base and two runs in, the pitcher surrendered the ball willingly and jogged to the dugout.

"There's no point throwing 35 pitches in one inning in spring training," he said.

With 33 saves in his first full season, Ray erased any doubts about his ability to handle the closer role. He was enjoying a quiet, but productive, spring until allowing two earned runs and three hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Ray, who hadn't given up a run in his first five innings, called the outing a "good and a bad thing." The bad part was obvious in the line score, but Ray took comfort that his arm - which tired late last season - felt fresh. Perhaps too fresh after Monday's day off.

"I felt as good as I have so far this spring," he said. "I think that probably led to me just trying to chuck it and leaving the ball up. I wasn't getting my breaking pitches over. My arm felt real strong, and I may have gotten carried away. Instead of pitching, I tried to go out there and just let it go."

Leicester hangs in

Jon Leicester pulled a few items out of his locker yesterday morning and stuffed them into a duffel bag, the routine of a player who has been cut from the spring training roster. Except Leicester was packing for another road trip, still a part of the team with less than two weeks left before the Orioles break camp.

Leicester won't be sitting with the relievers on Opening Day, but he has outlasted other nonroster pitchers. He's still in uniform, and still in the Orioles' sights.

After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, Leicester was limited to two games at Triple-A Oklahoma last year after going to spring training with the Texas Rangers.

"I think it's gone pretty well here," said Leicester, who picked up the save yesterday with a scoreless ninth. "I feel like I could have been competing for a job anywhere. The fact I was injured last year set me back. Really, my only goal was to come and show them that I was healthy and that I could pitch, and that I'm back to what I was a few years ago."

Leicester, 28, is 5-3 with a 4.80 ERA in 38 games.

"Making the team right out of camp isn't my No. 1 priority," he said. "My only thing was to just show them who I was and have them think about me when it came to being called up later."

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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