Bullpen looms for Loewen

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

June 06, 2008|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN REPORTER

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Orioles left-hander Adam Loewen returns from the disabled list in a few weeks, it will be as a reliever for the rest of the season.

Beyond that, Loewen's specific role with the Orioles is unclear.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley confirmed yesterday that Loewen (left elbow soreness) will pitch exclusively as a reliever for the Orioles after he spends roughly three weeks on a minor league rehabilitation assignment at Single-A Frederick, Double-A Bowie and eventually Triple-A Norfolk. His minor league work will consist of at least 15 innings and be a mix of starting and relieving.

Loewen, 24, has made just six relief appearances in his six-season pro career, and three in 32 major league games. It's too early, Trembley said, to speculate as to whether this switch could be permanent.

"He'll pitch out of the bullpen for the rest of the season," Trembley said. "We'll be able to monitor him, limit his pitches and kind of go from there with that. Then at the end of the season, we'll determine during the offseason what we're going to do after that."

Trembley said he has talked to Loewen about the move, and the pitcher is "fine with it." Loewen is in extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla., and will pitch a simulated game tomorrow. Trembley said yesterday that Loewen likely will return to the Orioles by early July.

From the time Loewen was drafted with the fourth overall selection in the 2002 amateur draft, he was considered a big part of the club's future rotation.

But he has been hindered by elbow trouble, which ended his 2007 season last May. He had surgery June 14, when a screw was inserted in the elbow, but he hoped to pitch a full season this year.

Loewen made just four starts this season, going 0-1 with a 7.85 ERA before being placed back on the DL with soreness in the same elbow.

"I told him in spring training that his expectations might have been a little out of whack," Trembley said. "He had surgery, major surgery, and to think you're going to come back and step right in like you were before you got hurt, I basically told him this was the year he's just going to get back in the swing of things."

Fiorentino returns

The Orioles announced two minor league moves yesterday. Shortstop Luis Hernandez, who batted .241 in 36 games with the Orioles, cleared waivers and will report to Triple-A Norfolk.

The Orioles also brought back a former player, claiming outfielder Jeff Fiorentino from the Oakland Athletics and placing him on the 40-man roster, which is now full. Fiorentino, a third-round pick by the Orioles in 2004, had been on the DL at Triple-A Sacramento after a thrown ball broke his nose and cheekbone in early April.

The Orioles lost Fiorentino in January, when the Cincinnati Reds claimed him off waivers. He was later claimed by the Athletics.

Going back to 12 pitchers

Trembley said the club likely would switch from 13 pitchers to 12 this month. Starting June 20, the Orioles are on the road for nine straight games in National League ballparks (Milwaukee, Chicago and Washington) and will not be able to use the designated hitter.

"We may tinker with something at that point and time," Trembley said. "But I think through this road trip we will definitely stay with 13 pitchers."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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