Although no one will say much about it, it appears the Orioles have asked Billy Rowell, their first-round draft pick in 2006, to consider converting from a position player to a pitcher. Rowell was drafted as an infielder and has played at first base, third base and right field in the minors.
But after producing some solid offensive numbers very early in his career, he has struggled at bat since and has not lived up to the promise of a first-round pick. After spending three seasons in A-ball, he hit just .227 in a reserve role last year at Double-A Bowie.
The Orioles apparently had a thought to bring Rowell back to Florida during extended spring training to begin work as a pitcher. Rowell may have left training camp in Sarasota to ponder his future but he has not returned calls seeking comment for this story. The Orioles will not confirm or discuss what plans they have in mind for Rowell this season.
Rowell was the ninth overall pick out of a New Jersey high school in the 2006 draft and got off to a good hitting start in his first season with the organization. He hit .328 with three homers, 32 RBIs and a .917 OPS in 53 games that summer between Rookie League Bluefield and short-season Single-A Aberdeen.
But his stats began to fall off with his 2007 season at Single-A Delmarva and he spent three straight years, from 2008 through 2010, at Single-A Frederick of the Carolina League.
There was a rumor late last year that the Orioles may have approached Rowell about pitching then but in an interview with MASNsports.com last September, during which he criticized the club's handling of him in 2011, Rowell said he had no interest in pitching.
"No. I hate pitching. I don't like pitching at all. I would be mentally in pain pitching. I like to play every day," he said then.
He began last year with Bowie as a reserve and hit .227 with no homers and 11 RBIs in 41 games and 119 at-bats for the Baysox. In his Orioles minor league career, over 550 games, he is batting .261 with 40 homers, 257 RBIs and an OPS of .718.