For the first time, Zac Lowther entered spring training on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, and manager Brandon Hyde has promised to give him a long look.
“I think going into the spring, it’s the same thing every year, get ready for the season,” Lowther said on a video conference call.
“Hearing him say that, it’s nice coming here, first-year, 40-man guy, trying to make the team any way possible, but hearing the manager say that, it’s nice, it’s a compliment.
“I’ve still got to build up to my innings as a starter. Whether I get into games or whether I’m in back fields, I know they always have eyes on me. Just to be able to go out there and get my work in is still really important. Making the team is either going to happen or it’s not going to happen. I’ve just got to stick to the route.”
Lowther, who was a late addition to the team’s alternate site at Bowie during last summer’s pandemic-altering season, would have pitched in Triple-A in 2020 had there been a minor league season.
In 2019, Lowther was 13-7 with a 2.55 ERA. The 24 year-old left-hander thinks the major leagues aren’t far away.
“I feel like I’m there,” Lowther said. “The only thing that’s stopping me right now is not being on the roster, just being able to go out there and compete with those guys and practice with them every day.
“The environment that these guys have made for me … In our group, I’ve got John Means. I’ve got Shawn Armstrong. Those guys create the environment of the major league status. Feeling like I fit in there has helped my mindset in that way.”
Lowther was the Orioles’ second-round draft choice in 2017. His time off since last season has been full for his family in suburban Cleveland.
“My offseason was eventful,” Lowther said. “We bought a house. We had a kid. We were very busy.”
The 2020 season presented challenges.
“On the baseball side of it, we tried to replicate some games back home in Cleveland during the summer, as much as you could, try to get innings in,” he said. “As soon as we got to the alternate site, we wanted to work on a lot of my offspeed pitches and being in the zone more.”
Lowther said he used a biomechanics tool to refine his approach.
“I was able to pinpoint some stuff that I lacked and being able to take those deficiencies out of my delivery, it helped me get more out of my body with doing less,” he said. “It’s just going to help the body in the long run, and I was really happy that I could make those changes.”
Lowther believes the time spent with fewer players was beneficial.
“I definitely think that the small instructional groups that we have to be at when we’re at an alternate site, it helps no matter what,” he said. “You’ve got high-level coaches there with high-level players. With such a small group, it’s very individualized with the work that you’re doing. You’re able to hone in on some things that the game’s not going to let you do, day-to-day, so that when you have that streamlined practice, these coaches know the direction that I want to go, and they’re going to help me get there, and that’s really the only goal at the time.”
The alternate sites will be used in 2021, at least for the first month of the Triple-A season, which has been delayed. Teams will be restricted to 28 players. Taxi squads also will return for road trips, with a five-player maximum.
Lowther, who pitched 148 innings for the Baysox in 2019, will have his workload monitored.
“I think this buildup in this spring training, and if I am at the alternate site, that’s definitely going to help ease the load going into the season,” Lowther said.
“Without having a season last year, it was tough and they wanted to make sure everyone’s arm is going to be OK, but throughout my career, I’ve been the workhorse with innings.
“I’ll throw as many as you need me to and throughout the years I’ve been getting better at going deeper in the games, so I think that the jump from the limited innings last year to this year will be pretty fine with me. I trained my body to handle 150 innings before. Being able to jump from nothing to something, I think my body can handle it pretty well.”