Loewen saves his best for last

Loewen saves his best for last

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Adam Loewen made sure that he'd leave Florida on a positive note Monday, when he turned in his best spring outing in his final start of the Grapefruit League season. Loewen still has one exhibition start remaining before the regular season begins, but he said he'll head north with a renewed sense of confidence.

"I felt like I've been throwing the ball well all along," he said after throwing five strong innings Monday. "I had a couple pitches that maybe got out of control, and I had to get my focus back. ... I felt like as the game progressed, I was able to make adjustments better. Late in the game, like the fourth or fifth inning, I felt a lot more comfortable."

The southpaw gave up just two hits and one earned run in Baltimore's 1-0 loss to the Mets, but he continued to have problems with his control. Loewen walked three batters Monday and has handed out more walks (15) and hits (14) than innings pitched (12 1/3) this spring. Still, the focus on Monday was on his latest start and what it could mean moving forward.

"This kind of wipes my slate clean," he said. "I've pretty much forgotten everything up to this point."

"It's good for his confidence and it's good for our team," added Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "I've got confidence in him that he's going to have a real good season for us this year. I'm sure, for him, it's good to get out of the hole."

Loewen, who made just six starts last season, needed that exact kind of result. The southpaw had gotten just five outs and allowed four earned runs in his previous spring start, raising concerns about his health and his progress. Loewen missed one spring start to rest his shoulder and said Monday that he doesn't have any concerns about his arm.

"It doesnt bother me when I'm on the mound, and that's the biggest thing," he said of his shoulder. "I think that's in the past. I don't really worry about my shoulder being less than 100 percent when I come to the field."

Few players mean as much to Baltimore's rebuilding project as Loewen, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. Loewen signed a Major League contract, which forced him to the big leagues before he was completely developed. And then last year, he missed more time to repair a stress fracture in his left elbow.

Still, at 23 years old, Loewen is one of the few homegrown prospects in camp. The left-hander has said that he's made some mechanical adjustments to aid his delivery, and he said Monday that he's had a productive Spring Training. Loewen was ahead in all three counts against the guys he walked on Monday, and he said he has to learn to put them away.

"I struggled with that, but also today, I made pitches to get back in it as well," he said, noting the proper juxtaposition. "It's a two-way street there. I felt like when I was missing, I was around the plate [and] I was down in the zone with the exception of a couple pitches. I just felt like I was more in control of my fastball today."

Loewen will start Saturday against Washington in the debut game at Nationals Park, an assignment that should push him toward the back end of Baltimore's rotation. The Orioles will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound on Opening Day, and veterans Steve Trachsel and Daniel Cabrera will comprise the other two determined rotation slots.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.