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Loewen agrees to deal with O's
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05/27/2003  4:24 PM ET 
Loewen agrees to deal with O's
2002 first-rounder would have been eligible for draft
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Adam Loewen speaks to the media after the Orioles selected him fourth overall in 2002. (Richard Lam/AP)
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles' new front-office regime made the most significant step in restoring the farm system and reputation of the organization Tuesday by signing 2002 first-round pick Adam Loewen to a five-year contract.

Loewen, a 19-year-old left-handed pitcher from Surrey, British Columbia, was the fourth overall pick in 2002 and was eligible to enter this year's First Year Player Draft if he had not signed by Monday at midnight.

The Orioles and Loewen agreed to a Major League contract worth $4 million: a $3.2 million signing bonus spread over four years and an $800,000 salary.

Loewen will be placed on the 40-man roster, a condition of his contract, and fly to Baltimore on Thursday for a physical before heading to extended Spring Training in Sarasota, Fla.

"I am really excited about the whole thing," Loewen said by phone from Surrey. "Now I am ready to play baseball. It went down to the wire. My mind was going about 100 miles a minute."

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Jim Beattie, executive vice president Mike Flanagan and Loewen's representative, Michael Moye, reached an agreement about five minutes before the Monday deadline.

Loewen, who went 6-1 with a 1.83 ERA for Chipola Junior College in Florida, was considered a top three pick if he had re-entered the draft. So the Orioles had plenty of incentive to get the deal done, especially considering the lack of pitching depth in their farm system.

"It had taken a downward turn, and we got a little creative at that point," Flanagan said. "Jim deserves credit for coming up with the Major League contract. That seemed to be very attractive. I think it was really the turning point."

The Major League contract was the key part of the agreement, according to Loewen, who gave himself a "two- to three-" year window to make the Major Leagues. Every year Loewen does not make the Major League club, the Orioles will have to use one of his options to send him to the minors.

Orioles officials said Loewen has four options, meaning he will have to make the club by spring 2007 or be exposed to waivers.

"I have full confidence I can make it before then," Loewen said. "Depending on how hard I work, I know I can make it."

The club made a $2.5 million offer last summer to Loewen, whose representatives asked for a $3.9 million signing bonus. But Loewen spurned the offer, decided to enroll at Chipola, and the Orioles were forced to wait until his season ended May 9 to begin negotiations.

But these discussions were different. They included Beattie and Flanagan and not previous Orioles' vice president Syd Thrift. Beattie watched Loewen play in person twice, including his lone loss in the Florida Community College playoffs earlier this month.

"It looked like the team was headed in a different direction," Loewen said about Beattie and Flanagan. "It was quite different. Last year I really didn't know who the GM was. The Orioles came to all my games, and they made the situation more comfortable."

After spending a few weeks in Sarasota, Loewen likely will head to Single-A Aberdeen before the Orioles make an evaluation on his progress. Loewen threw just 59 innings for Chipola, and Beattie said the left-hander will pitch limited innings this summer.

Don't blame the club for being cautious with its newly signed commodity. Several Orioles pitching prospects have been felled with arm injuries. Two -- Matt Riley and Erik Bedard -- have undergone Tommy John surgery.

"For any young player coming into our system, it's a year for them to almost step back a little bit with respect to stress on their arm," said Beattie, a former Major League pitcher. "This year will be a very light workload for Adam, as it would be for any young pitcher coming into our organization this June."

Loewen's signing gives a boost to an organization looking to retool after years of mediocrity. Bedard was the team's top pitching prospect but likely is two years away from the Major League club because he will miss this year because of the surgery.

Also, the Orioles have had some awful luck in recent years with first-round picks being injured or being major letdowns. Of the previous four pitchers the club has taken in the first round, none has reached Triple-A.

While others clubs are reaping the benefits of young pitching prospects, the Orioles have had to use minor league free agents, aging veterans and other acquisitions to fill their starting rotation.

Now, the club has Loewen, considered one of the top left-handed pitchers in recent years because of his crisp fastball and an already-developed curveball. Loewen appeared uncomfortable with comparing himself to any current Major Leaguer but said he idolizes Oakland's Mark Mulder, who mixes a solid fastball with a bending slider.

"I am just excited to finally be in this position," Loewen said. "It's been a long year. And I am glad it's over and I can get to baseball."

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



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