MANCHESTER -- It's been a tale of two careers for New Hampshire Fisher Cats center fielder Adam Loewen.
Drafted as a lefty pitcher by Baltimore as the fourth overall pick in 2002, Loewen made his MLB debut with the Orioles in 2006. He was 8-8 over three years with Baltimore, appearing in 35 games. But a stress fracture in his elbow forced him to transition to a positional player.
"It's been five years since I pitched now. I feel like that part is behind me. It seems like it's been split in two halves," Loewen said Thursday night prior to the Fisher Cats game with Altoona. "I'm 29 now, married, I have a different perspective on baseball now than when I was 21 and pitching."
Loewen is 6-foot-6 and hails from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada (though he now calls Scottsdale, Ariz., home). He was the highest Canadian draft pick until pitcher Jameson Taillon (who, coincidentally, is in town with Altoona) in 2010 by Pittsburgh.
Loewen said he knew immediately that he wanted to give positional play a go when he found out his arm would no longer be able to handle the wear-and-tear of pitching. He was signed by Toronto in 2008 and played with the Fisher Cats in 2010, hitting .246 with 13 home runs and 70 RBIs in 129 games.
"He's a professional. He's come a long way since being a pitcher. The last time I was in the same uniform with him (with Baltimore), he was a pitcher," said Fisher Cats manager Gary Allenson. "He's a pretty good athlete. If you can pitch and come back as a hitter ... usually it's the other way around. That's a pretty good athlete."
Loewen's unusual career track and veteran status makes him a natural go-to guy for young players seeking advice.
"I try to make myself available if anybody has questions or if they aren't acting professionally. I feel like it's my job as one of the older guys to maybe say something behind the scenes. I don't like to call anybody out in front of the team. I feel like that's counter-productive," Loewen said. "My advice is always to simplify the game as much as you can. Otherwise it can become a mental grind."
When Kevin Pillar was called up to Triple-A Buffalo in June, Allenson was left with a hole at the leadoff position. Loewen had never hit leadoff before and found the approach to starting the game was different.
"The first at-bat is different, but I feel like after that's over the rest are the same, it's just like hitting anywhere else," Loewen said. "To lead off the game, you don't get to see the pitcher before. I hit fifth or sixth before this and I'd have five or six at-bats to see before and see what he's trying to do, what he's got, how hard he's throwing, see what his stuff is like."
Loewen has fared well in the leadoff spot. He's hitting .266 with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs, all numbers that have spiked since the move to the leadoff spot.
"He's probably one of the main cogs getting us going offensively with the bat. Eventually, we'll get (Kenny) Wilson back and that will probably bump him down again, but he's been a key guy," Allenson said. "He's obviously not the prototype leadoff guy. He didn't need to do anything different. He can be aggressive on the first pitch of the game if he wants. He really struggled early, but he's come a long way. He's done a pretty good job. Hopefully, he's opened up some eyes."
Staff writer Ian Clark can be reached at email@example.com.