Ex-pitcher Adam Loewen makes it back to majors as outfielder

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Former Orioles first-round pick Adam Loewen is back in the majors three years and a couple of months after giving up on pitching due to a series of arm problems.  The Blue Jays called him up and will use him as a reserve outfielder for the rest of the season.

The 27-year-old Loewen has been with the Blue Jays since the Orioles released him following the 2008 season.  Baltimore hoped to re-sign him then — he was released because he was on the 40-man roster yet had no hope of contributing in the short term — but he picked a return to his native Canada.  He hit .236/.340/.355 with four homers for Single-A Dunedin in his first full season as an outfielder in 2009, .246/.351/.412 with 13 homers in Double-A in 2010 and .306/.377/.508 with 17 homers in Triple-A this year.

The big caveat there is that his Triple-A home games were in Las Vegas, a fabulous place for hitters.  He hit .328/.414/.559 with 10 homers at home, compared to .284/.339/.458 in the rest of the PCL’s mostly hitter friendly ballparks.  Also, he struck out 136 times in his 520 at-bats.

There is some hope for Loewen, though he doesn’t currently project as a major league regular.  If he takes another step forward next year like he has the past two, he has a chance of making it as a platoon outfielder.  The Jays will give him a few starts down the stretch to see if he’ll be worth keeping on the 40-man this winter.  That he is out of options complicates things; he’ll have to clear waivers if he can’t make the team out of spring training next year.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉