Good news, bad news

Orioles' Loewen has stress fracture, will be sidelined at least 8 weeks

May 05, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun reporter

As the pain in his left arm became worse, Orioles pitcher Adam Loewen knew something wasn't right. He just had no idea how much of his season would be lost.

Perhaps all of it.

A bone scan taken yesterday morning confirmed that Loewen has a stress fracture in his left elbow, an injury that will require a minimum of eight weeks' rest before he can begin a throwing program.

The Orioles placed him on the disabled list yesterday (retroactive to Wednesday), purchased reliever Todd Williams' contract from Triple-A Norfolk and tried to weather the latest blow to their starting rotation.

"This is something that we feel has been caught early," said Mike Flanagan, executive vice president of baseball operations. "There's a couple different ways you could go with a stress fracture, so at this time we think it's only prudent to put him on the disabled list."

Flanagan wouldn't specify what options are available to Loewen until further consultation with doctors, but he conceded that surgery is one of them, which would most likely force the left-hander to sit out the rest of the season.

Orioles team orthopedist Dr. Andrew Cosgarea examined Loewen, who had an X-ray taken last week that didn't reveal the fracture. Cosgarea planned to confer with renowned orthopedists Dr. Lewis Yocum and Dr. James Andrews to see whether they've dealt with similar cases.

"Talking it through with it just being diagnosed, it's a pretty uncommon injury," Flanagan said. "I think the options, the way it's been described to us, are good ones, and I wouldn't say by any stretch of the imagination something that could linger and get to something worse. It's fairly straightforward, I think, with the stress fracture, especially getting it as early as we did.

"He'll probably be back by the end of the year."

Loewen was removed from Tuesday's start in Detroit after five innings. Trainer Richie Bancells and manager Sam Perlozzo went to the mound to check on Loewen with two outs in the fourth after he hung a curveball to Neifi Perez.

"My arm felt great in spring training," said Loewen, 23, the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft out of British Columbia. "Over the last couple weeks it's been getting a little worse and a little worse. It wasn't a huge pain for me, so I think looking at it that way, recovery time won't be a huge problem. I think it'll heal up fine.

"If you look at it like that, it's not really one of those injuries where you can rehab and rehab and push it. You've got to let it rest, and once it's all healed up, then I can start getting my arm back in shape."

Said Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis: "It's tough, coming up through the minor leagues with him, him being around all the time and being my roommate through the minor leagues. I think it hit me a little harder than most guys to see him out for however long. It's definitely a big loss, and hopefully things will work out for him and hopefully we can get him back as soon as possible."

Loewen, who is 2-0 with a 3.56 ERA, said the injury most likely was caused by "wear and tear."

"I kind of knew something was off by the way I was pitching and just the way it felt at certain times," he said. "[The pain] was just kind of moving all over the place, and I knew that wasn't right."

The Orioles made Loewen their No. 4 starter this season. They had to keep him on the roster because he was out of minor league options, but they also felt he had earned the chance after going 6-6 with a 5.37 ERA in 22 appearances last season.

"I was so excited coming into this year," he said. "This is definitely a step back for me. It's frustrating to hear that. I worked so hard this offseason and thought I made huge strides.

"It's not the end of the world. I'm 23 and I think the future is going to be bright."

The present is a different story.

Seattle Mariners reliever Cesar Jimenez suffered a stress fracture on the tip of his left elbow in spring training and underwent surgery that is expected to keep him out for the season, but also is viewed as the quickest method for him to recover.

Reliever Antonio Alfonseca suffered a similar fracture in his right elbow while pitching for the Florida Marlins in April 2005 and missed three months.

"I'm not going to rush myself back," Loewen said. "I'm going to put that in the doctors' hands for them to tell me when I'm allowed to throw."

In the meantime, the Orioles continue to patch up their rotation. They lost Kris Benson to season-ending rotator cuff surgery in March and returned Jaret Wright to the DL this week with a sore right shoulder. Hayden Penn underwent surgery this week to remove a bone chip from his right elbow after making one start at Norfolk, and team officials don't expect him to return until late July or early August.

Left-hander Brian Burres most likely will start tomorrow, with Jeremy Guthrie going Tuesday. The Orioles could give them an extended look and bring up a reliever from Norfolk.

If the Orioles decide to go outside the organization, one possibility is Brian Lawrence, whose name has come up internally. The Colorado Rockies released him Monday. Past trade discussions involving Byung-Hyun Kim and Josh Fogg could resurface.

For now, the Orioles will try to hold firm as their rotation crumbles. They can only hope the season doesn't do the same.

Said Flanagan: "This is a little bit out of left field with the stress fracture. Adam's as disappointed for us as maybe we are. We're focusing at this moment on this loss and not having him for a while. We'll regroup and do what we have to do."

Sun reporters Jeff Zrebiec and Stephen Whyno contributed to this article.

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