For one night, they took time away from getting consistent outs against Eastern League hitters to take in a big league game. Double-A Bowie left-handers Zac Lowther and Alex Wells were guests of the Orioles last night, touring the clubhouse, meeting the coaches and doing a series of interviews.
They made the rounds as they took a night off from the mounds.
They are both having special seasons. Lowther was the Orioles Minor League Jim Palmer co-Pitcher of the Year last season, sharing the award with Keegan Akin. In 20 starts for the Baysox this year, he is 11-5 with a 2.62 ERA. He ranks first in the Eastern League in wins, is third in ERA and strikeouts and 8th with a 1.15 WHIP.
Lowther was asked how far away he feels he is from the bigs.
“You never know,” he said. “You’re always going to be behind someone. But just working every day, being able to work with your craft is something you have to focus on and you can’t really worry about, are they going to call me up today or when it’s going to happen. When you are ready, it’s going to happen, no matter what.”
Lowther talked about his progress throughout this season and being part of an outstanding rotation with the Baysox.
“I think just my pitch development and being able to get Double-A hitters out. I know, every step of the way, it’s going to be a challenge. Just as long as I can prove that to myself, that’s the only person that really counts.
“It’s awesome (in this rotation). You know, you’ve got five or six guys, and the bullpen staff, that are having success. You’re rolling good and being able to bounce ideas off each other. Just get better as a unit. Baseball is a very individual game, especially when we get to this level, but we’ve got a great group of guys. Just to be, to grow as, like, brothers and friends is something that we each take pride in.”
In 55 career games since he was taken No. 74 overall in the 2017 draft out of Xavier, Lowther is 21-11 with a 2.25 ERA, .192 average against and 1.02 WHIP. Pretty strong stuff, and he said he thinks his pitching has taken a step or two forward in 2019.
“This year, I think, it’s just it’s just my ability to learn from the game,” Lowther said. “Double-A hitters are a lot better than High-A hitters. Being able to kind of learn from them and figure out what I need to get better at is something that really came to light. Whether you have three, four pitches, you need that extra pitch, no matter what. Each level you go, you can get away with one pitch or two pitches, but once you get to Double-A, these guys are good. And being able to have three or four pitches consistently every game is something you will need to have repeated success.”
Both pitchers were asked to compare how they were developed and handled last year under the previous regime, and what has been different this season.
Lowther said: “I think just the development side. You get a lot more scouting. You get more scouting reports on the other guys. We are each looking to get better somewhere. Whether it’s development, whether it’s getting your routine down, figuring out who you are as a pitcher. A lot of little things. It’s not that we didn’t do them last year, but they are more pushed towards you.”
Said Wells: “There is a lot more data. We get to see more heat maps, more video. Before we face a team we go to the clubhouse and on video check out what the hitters’ tendencies are. See what they do in certain counts. Even after a start, we go in and look at video of ourselves to see what we want to work on for our next start.”
Wells has been to Camden Yards before. He was there to accept the Jim Palmer Award after his great season at Single-A Delmarva in 2017. The 22-year-old lefty was signed out of Australia in August 2015. He’s been a mid-season All-Star in four different leagues and pitched in the Futures Game last season.
Wells is 8-2 with a 2.12 ERA, this season for the Baysox, and he leads the Eastern League in ERA and WHIP.
He surely enjoyed his time at the Yard.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s always good to get to Camden Yards and check it out. It’s been very welcoming. Been good to talk to Brandon Hyde and John Wasdin and Doug Brocail and catch up with a couple of guys I know down in the clubhouse.”
One of those players he caught up with was right-hander Dillon Tate, who was with Bowie until his call to the Orioles July 26.
“Tate was my roommate on the road before he got called up. Was good to see him again,” Wells said. “He’s a real good guy. We talked about that most days when we were together, how great it would be to be in the big leagues. We talked about it at dinner that night, and at 4:30 in the morning he got that call.”
At a time when the Orioles are rebuilding with youth, the players on the farm are enthused by that, said Wells.
“It’s exciting to see a young ballclub, knowing I’m a young guy,” he said. “Very excited to maybe one day be pitching here. I don’t really think about it too much. I don’t want it to hinder my work right now. I just go out and pitch, that will take care of itself.”
The calendar has now turned to August, and pitchers like Lowther and Wells have done enough to earn a promotion, but they continue to pitch for the Baysox. Wells said he’s just fine with being at the Double-A level all year if that turns out to be the case.
“Just more experience. Learning every day,” Wells said. “Just being around the guys, a good group of guys. It’s exciting and fun and we enjoy going to the park every day with that group. Anytime I can gain some knowledge, being at one spot all year, that’s fun. The guys there have helped me all year. Just being around them is fun, and Bowie is playing really good baseball. It’s real exciting.”