Converted pitcher Adam Loewen could make Mets as center fielder

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Scott Hairston’s oblique strain leaves the Mets in need of a backup center fielder behind starter Andres Torres and converted pitcher Adam Loewen has a legitimate chance to claim the gig.

Loewen was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2002 draft and started 29 games in the majors for the Orioles by age 24, but gave up pitching in 2009 following injuries and ineffectiveness.

He spent last season at Triple-A in the Blue Jays’ system, hitting .306 with 17 homers and an .884 OPS in 134 games. Impressive raw numbers, although Las Vegas is an extremely hitter-friendly environment and his 136/61 K/BB ratio wasn’t as encouraging.

Oh, and he’s played just 18 career games in center field, so even if Loewen can hit in the majors the jury is still very much out on whether he can field the position adequately. Of course, his primary competition is Mike Baxter and he’s a career-long infielder with just 43 games in center field.

All of which means the Mets are really counting on Torres to stay healthy after missing 50 games last season.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.