Zac Lowther didn’t spend much time at the Bowie alternate site this past summer. Slowed by an oblique injury, he wasn’t added to the 60-man player pool until September 4th, but he made the most of his time there.
Lowther was one of six players added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster on Friday. He was joined by left-hander Alexander Wells, right-handers Michael Baumann and Isaac Mattson, infielder Rylan Bannon and outfielder Yusniel Diaz.
Infielder/designated hitter Renato Núñez was designated for assignment to bring the roster to 40. Those promoted are protected from the Rule 5 draft that takes place next month.
“Once I got to Bowie, it was working on basically just getting some innings,” Lowther said in a Friday night video conference call that included Baumann and Diaz.
“It was an accelerated pace. Going to Bowie, and then going to instructional camp [in Sarasota, Florida] was probably the most beneficial two months that I’ve had in baseball in a long time in terms of development.”
Lowther had three weeks in Bowie and nearly a month in Sarasota.
“When you’re there, you don’t have that desire to get better as well as compete because sometimes you get both of those, and you get crossed up. One or the other suffers. Having these two camps this year gave me an opportunity to work on stuff without having to worry about results, so that was beneficial to me, and I made a lot of strides with that.”
Lowther, 24, who was the Orioles’ second-round draft pick in 2017, has a 2.26 ERA in his three years in Baltimore’s minor league system. He’s allowed just 17 home runs in 326 minor league innings.
“I made some big jumps this year in terms of development and just growth as a baseball player in mindset, being able to withstand this coronavirus pandemic,” Lowther said.
Lowther and Wells were given invitations to the major league camp but since neither had pitched above Double-A, they weren’t given serious consideration. Both were sent to the minor league camp quickly.
“I think that the biggest thing going into next year is going in there ready to compete,” Lowther said. “Last year, I wasn’t on the 40-man roster, so it’s an outside shot that guys make it when they’re not on the roster already. I know this year I have a chance. I’m going to go in there with every intention of being able to compete for a spot because I know that the organization wants me here.
“I’m in a really good position, and as long as I do what I’m capable of doing, it’s going to work out well for me.”
Baumann, Wells and Lowther could provide depth for the starting rotation. In 2020, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer, both new to the 40-man roster, and Bruce Zimmermann, who received an invitation to camp, impressed in spring training and got their opportunities later in the 2020 season. It could be the same for Baumann, Lowther and Wells this time around.
“We all kind of went through the system, played together,” Baumann said. “Seeing them have success up there in Baltimore is great. Very exciting, very encouraging. I think it shows the future is bright, and there’s a lot of good things coming.”.
Baumann’s season ended early when he suffered an injury to his right flexor mass tendon.
“It’s been feeling good. I’ve been making strides there as far as rehab goes,” Baumann said. “I think there’s been progress there. I’m looking forward to taking more steps forward.”
Baumann, the team’s third-round draft choice in 2017, has compiled a 2.82 ERA in 297 innings. He also got a lot out of his time in Bowie.
“We were able to hone in on some things I personally needed to make adjustments for,” he said. “Mentally, physically, make steps forward that otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do with the season going on.
“There are definitely some losses there without having the [minor league] season, but if you have the right mindset, you can take some good out of it.”
Baumann was a college classmate of Austin Hays at Jacksonville University. Hays was taken in the third round a year earlier.
Lowther went to Xavier University with Bannon, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Rylan’s been with me since college, and having him along for the ride since 2018 has been really, really cool,” Lowther said. “We have that roommate bond that we had college, and getting to live with each other last year, that’s really cool.”
Lowther and Wells are left-handers and both wear glasses.
“Me and Alex, we’re always getting compared to each other,” Lowther said. “Getting to experience major league camp with him and then going to this year, being on the 40-man with him is really cool. I’ve gotten to know those guys very well, and they’re like brothers to me, and I love them.”
Baumann, Lowther and Diaz were expected to be added to the 40-man roster. Diaz came to the Orioles along with Bannon and Kremer in the July 2018 trade that sent Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Diaz will be vying for a place in the Orioles’ outfield, which already includes Hays, Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle and possibly DJ Stewart,
“It means so much for me,” he said of being added to the roster through an interpreter.
“I was hoping for something like this to come true. Now, it’s a reality, so now it’s time to work.”
Diaz also cited his time in Bowie.
“Despite the circumstances, I felt pretty good,” Diaz said. “I was able to work on my speed, and my agility, improve my defense, and also to work on my hitting. I’m looking forward for next season.”