Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Orioles Get Good News on Ailing Loewen

OAKLAND -- The Orioles got good news regarding injured starter Adam Loewen on Monday, but they're still not sure exactly when to expect him back. Loewen visited orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews to undergo an examination on his injured left elbow Monday, and the former first-round pick came out of the meeting with a clean bill of health.

"He's been cleared," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "There is no structural damage [and] there were no further problems that have come up with his arm. He's back in Baltimore, he's going to get some personal items and he's going to report to [the team's Minor League camp in] Sarasota. He's going to go on a throwing program.

"I don't know how long it will take -- two or three weeks maybe -- and then he'll be back pitching."

Loewen made just six starts last season before being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left elbow, an injury that required surgical intervention and several months of physical rehabilitation. Loewen came back to full strength in Spring Training but experienced some recurring tightness when warming up, a sensation that felt completely alien to him.

The southpaw didn't feel comfortable when the season started, and he felt referred pain in his forearm during his fourth start. Loewen handed the ball to his manager that night and walked right off the mound without much discussion, and when he met the media after the game, he admitted that he didn't feel physically intact.

"There's been a couple things that were bothering me before and started to go away," he said on April 24. "When that starts to happen, something else comes up. I might be overcompensating for something. That's why I'm getting all these different types of pains. I really don't think it's anything serious, but it would be nice to step on the mound and feel 100 percent."

Loewen underwent an MRI exam and a bone scan, and both tests seemed to indicate that he's physically sound. Now, the main concern is that he's still getting used to pitching with his surgically repaired elbow, which had a titanium screw inserted to help stabilize the fracture.

"He would be much better qualified to answer than I would," said Baltimore's president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. "I'm just, like everybody else, pleased that there isn't something that you can see there that's going to be a problem down the road. We just need to get him back up and try to figure out what makes the most sense for him and for us going forward."

"Maybe the cold weather," added Trembley. "Maybe the fact that he missed a whole year had something to do with the way he was pitching. Perhaps the fact that he just had to get used to doing something different and having something in his arm. I really don't know. I think there were a lot of factors that go into it. Obviously, he can take a step back and start over again.

"He didn't miss that much time. He can go through the program and get ready to play."

So what's next? Loewen will undergo a throwing program in Sarasota and will have to pitch through a Minor League rehab stint after that, a process that could take him to the end of the month even without a setback.

"One thing you can count on," said MacPhail, "is we'll be conservative with how we approach it."

"I think he'll tell us that," said Trembley. "His progress will obviously be monitored very closely in Sarasota. He'll tell us when he's ready, he'll tell us what his limitations are and I'll probably go quickly back to him.

"But I'm glad for him, and I'm glad for our team and the organization because he's a central figure in what we're trying to do here and he's one of the guys that we're trying to do it with."


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