BOWIE-At Double A, some players refer to their initial struggles at the level as the “Double-A wall.” The increase in competition is more drastic than when players move up in lower levels, so they sometimes struggle before finding their groove. But the jump hasn’t stopped Bowie Baysox pitcher Zac Lowther.
After dominating A-ball last year, the 23-year old lefty hasn’t slowed down. Through 17 starts this season, Lowther is 10-5 with a 2.54 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched.
“He knows who he is and he knows what he needs to work on, and every day he goes out and tries to get better,” Baysox manager Buck Britton said. “And the results speak for themselves.”
Those results have been a long time coming for Lowther, who has had the same approach since before he was drafted by the Orioles as a second-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. His fastball velocity started to top out in college at Xavier, so he started focusing on not just velocity but how to make the pitch work for him. It now has plenty of spin, allowing him to pound the strike zone with a pitch that usually sits at around 90 miles per hour.
“To a hitter it looks like it rises in the strike zone,” Britton said of the pitch. “And that goes against everything hitters are trying to do in today’s game.”
While he relied mainly on his fastball in college, Lowther knew how important it was to continue to develop at least three pitches to be successful. At this level, Lowther said you need at least three pitches to get hitters out. He started to develop a changeup, and now in Bowie has started to work on his curveball.
“I’ve always had a curveball, but it’s been a shaky on-and-off kind of thing,” Lowther said. “Just being able to get more consistent with it because up here you’re going to need it. If you don’t have it, it’s going to be a rough outing so you’re going to need it game after game.”
As he continues to experiment with his off-speed stuff and work to become a more well-rounded pitcher, Lowther has experienced a few bumps in the road along the way. Last year, at Low-A Delmarva and High-A Frederick, he was dominant, posting a 2.18 ERA and sharing the Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Year award with Keegan Akin. His numbers are similar this year, but he recently went through a rough patch.
In his first 14 starts this season, Lowther pitched at least four innings and gave up two earned runs or less in all but two of his starts. But in his last two starts before the All Star break, he struggled, allowing eight earned runs, 13 hits and seven walks in just 10 innings. The starts were the first time all season he’d given up more than three earned runs in consecutive games.
However, his first start after the All Star break was one of his best performances of the season. Against the Akron RubberDucks, Lowther took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings, picking up his league-leading 10th win.
“You just have to let your body work,” Lowther said. “We train all this time to move your body a certain way but when your mind gets in the way of that, your body breaks down from what it naturally does. So just knowing how your body syncs up and not worry about your mechanics too much is something I’ve learned works for me well.”
Lowther hopes that consistency carries over to the rest of the season, as he’s been part of a starting rotation that’s helped Bowie rebound from a 19-35 start to the hottest team in the Eastern League.
“(I’m) just trying to be comfortable on the mound so I can produce the best results and just being comfortable on the mound in uncomfortable situations,” he said.