Crowley looks forward to working with Loewen


July 23, 2008|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN REPORTER

In his 22 years as a major league hitting coach, Terry Crowley has not faced a challenge like the one that awaits him with Adam Loewen, the former Orioles pitcher who's trying to save his career by becoming a position player.

Crowley usually works with players who have been swinging a bat uninterrupted for years. Loewen hasn't done it on a consistent basis since he enrolled at Chipola Junior College in Florida, where he played first base on the days he wasn't pitching.

Once Loewen signed with the Orioles, who made him the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft, he committed to the mound. But a second fracture in his left elbow, and the refusal to undergo another surgery, will lead him to the batter's box - and eventually to Crowley.

"I don't think I've ever had this experience, which is unusual because I've had almost every situation imaginable," Crowley said

Loewen is expected to begin the next phase of his career in the fall instructional league. Crowley's past evaluations have come during batting practice sessions before the Orioles played at a National League park.

"He had a nice swing and he had real big power," Crowley said. "How that translates into game situations, where they change speeds and they look for holes where they can throw the fastball - be it up and in or low and away - these are things that he's going to have to iron out a little bit with game at-bats. He's been a nonhitter now for so long that it's going to take a while. I don't think it would be a fair evaluation for the first year or so, to say whether he can hit or not."

At Chipola, Loewen batted .353 with one home run and 38 RBIs in 45 games.

"Obviously, he's a good athlete, and I understand he's had a lot of success at the amateur ranks," Crowley said. "And I'm encouraged that there were some clubs that were interested in him as a high draft pick as a hitter. These are things that I hope will be a positive for us. But you're really going to just let him go away, let him play, let him see live pitching, let him get his hits and take his 0-fers and just grind it out every day and see where you're at. His swing will shorten up a little bit with game at-bats. His reaction time will quicken up a little bit. We'll see what it takes to get him to this level.

"I'd love to see him here," Crowley added, a smile creasing his face. "I'd love to yell at him once or twice in the tunnel about something."

Walker near return

The Orioles are expected to decide today whether to activate reliever Jamie Walker from the disabled list or send him on an injury rehabilitation assignment.

Walker threw batting practice to Brandon Fahey and Guillermo Quiroz and said his arm felt fine, but today will provide a clearer read on whether he's healthy. In the past, Walker's elbow has stiffened the day after he has thrown.

"I think I might have thrown one or two pitches up in the zone, but it felt good," he said. "That's the first time I've had any adrenaline in about three weeks, or since my last outing at Wrigley. My body felt good, elbow feels good. Hopefully, that cortisone shot did the job and got the inflammation out."

Pitching to Fahey and Quiroz gave Walker the opportunity to face hitters from both sides of the plate. It also allowed him to continue working on his delivery.

"In my last bullpen [session], we tweaked my mechanics a little bit," he said. "Hopefully, that will help out and create a little less stress on my elbow. It gives me a downward plane. That was the main thing."

Meanwhile, infielder Alex Cintron will go on a five-game injury rehab assignment later this week. He's recovering from a hamstring injury.

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