SARASOTA, Fla. - Coming off another strong minor league season, Orioles left-handed pitching prospect Zac Lowther is in big league camp for the first time. He’s trying to soak up the experience, learn from the older players and show the staff what he can do when he gets his chance.
He certainly has done that since the Orioles drafted him No. 74 overall in 2017 out of Xavier. In 61 career games he is 23-13 with a 2.26 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.
The Orioles’ co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2018 with Keegan Akin, Lowther went 13-7 with a 2.55 ERA last summer at Double-A Bowie. He almost won a pitching Triple Crown, leading the league in wins and strikeouts while finishing second in ERA.
It showed him he could have success at a higher level and that he might one day be good enough for the Baltimore staff.
“It was definitely very positive,” he said of his Bowie season. “Knowing I could compete at that level is a real confidence boost coming into this year. It’s been fun (being in this camp). Lot of new experiences for me. But it’s still spring training, just in a different environment, so it’s pretty cool.
“Getting here, you can be intimidated. This is my first time being here. But a lot of the veteran guys have been really, really cool about asking maybe dumb questions but they are always willing to give an answer, help me out and point me in the right direction.”
Lowther struggled in his first spring game on Tuesday in Fort Myers against Boston. Over 1 1/3 innings he allowed five hits, two walks and four runs. He gave up a two-run homer in the fourth inning to Jackie Bradley Jr.
Lowther throws a fastball, curveball and changeup, and is usually 88 to 92 mph. Knowing he lacks the big velocity, his focus at Bowie last summer was on his secondary pitches. They need to be sharp to complement his fastball.
“I went in with a plan of hoping to develop my off-speed pitches a little more,” Lowther said. “Looking back on it, I did just that. That was part of pushing my development. I knew going up levels, my fastball wasn’t going to be my only pitch. Being able to develop that was something I wanted to do. This year is a continuation of that. Just want to continue the success I had. I was throwing off-speed pitches in any count, really, compared to having hitters being able to guess my fastball about 75 percent of the time.
“You know, velocity only plays so much. Being able to mix it up with your velocity and your locations is something that will take you up the ladder and help you later. Being able to learn that now will help me make some new habits and force my hand in having to adjust to a certain type of guy or being able to read something that might not be as prevalent at the lower levels.”
The 23-year-old Lowther has led all O’s minor leaguers in strikeouts the last two years. He is ranked as the club’s No. 10 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 12 by Baseball America.
What is he looking forward to this spring?
“Just getting into a couple of games and compete,” he said. “Coming down here, spring training is still spring training. You’re coming here to get ready for the season. Still here to compete for a spot, but I’m just going to do what I do. Not going to push myself over any limits. Just want to get ready for the season and compete there.”
More runs, another win: Remember last Tuesday when the Orioles were outscored 27-6 in split-squad games against Tampa Bay and Boston? Well, the last two games they have beaten Pittsburgh by 13-0 and 11-4 scores. A combined total of 24-4 the past two days as they get to 4-4 with three wins in a row.
Ryan Mountcastle continued his hot hitting with a booming RBI double to center in the first inning on Friday at Bradenton. The last two days he has gone 5-for-7 with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs.
The Orioles had 32 hits in the two games, including nine doubles, two triples and four home runs. Richie Martin went 3-for-4 yesterday with a double, single, triple and four RBIs. Andrew Velazquez went 2-for-3, drove in a run, scored two and stole three bases.
The Orioles have scored 52 runs in seven games and now are 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts. They host Miami today in Sarasota at 1:05 p.m., with Akin getting the start. The game will be broadcast live on the Orioles Radio Network.