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February 14, 2013 at 8:35 AM

Latest Mariners bullpen addition wants…to start again?

Mariners non-roster invite Kameron Loe participates in a pitchers’ fielding drill this morning in Peoria, AZ.

Well, this certainly wasn’t expected when I rolled in to the Peoria Sports Complex this morning in search of 6-foot-8 non-roster bullpen invitee Kameron Loe. It actually doesn’t require much of a search to find Loe, one of the taller professional athletes not employed by a basketball team.

Turns out, Loe would like to get back to being a starting pitcher again. I didn’t even ask him the question — he offered it up. Thing is, he hasn’t started in the majors since 2007 with the Rangers.

“I’d love to have seventh, eighth inning, or at least help out in close games at the end of the game,” he said. “Eventually, I’d like to get back to being a starter. If they see an opening for me. I either want to be at the beginning of a game or the end of a game.”

Loe did pitch as a starter for the Softbank Hawks of the Japanese League in 2009 after the Rangers released him from their bullpen. He went 0-4 with a 6.33 ERA in his ony five outings.

Then, in 2010, when the Brewers signed him to a minor league deal, he went 4-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 10 starts in Class AAA.

“I was going pretty deep into games,” he said.

But the Brewers needed bullpen help that year, so when Loe was promoted to the majors, it was back to full-time relief work again. Loe held opponents to a 2.78 ERA in 56 outings for the Brewers that year, striking out 46 and walking only 15. That helped earn him two more seasons with the Brewers, first for a playoff team in 2011 and then a disappointing squad last year in which he broke his toe and endured a big slide at the end of the season.

Loe finished with a 4.61ERA overall and still managed 55 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings, with 20 walks. But the toe problem, arm fatigue and inconsistency caught up with him late. He finished with a 10.45 ERA in 13 outings that final month, striking out five and walking four in 10 1/3 innings of work. That was enough for the Brewers to release him after he declined a minor league assignment.

He went through the winter unsigned until the Mariners, seeking more experience from the right side in their bullpen, designated Shawn Kelley for assignment  last week and stepped up talks with Loe’s agent.

Loe is pretty clear about what he needs to do to be a starter again.

“Lefties have been my problem,” he said. “Getting lefties out consistently.”

He’s a sinker/slider type of pitcher with a four-seam fastball that top out in the low-90s and averaged less than 90 mph last season. Primarily, his sinker runs away from left-handed hitters and he hasn’t pounded them inside enough with four-seam fastballs. His change-up has also been inconsistent, so developing that and throwing inside are the biggest keys.

“I think that will be the equalizer for me,” he said.

Not just as a starter, but a reliever as well, since that’s almost certainly how he’ll begin his Seattle career if indeed he makes the team.

Lefties pounded him for a .307 batting average and .843 OPS last season compared to .267 average and .745 OPS by righties.

One thing worth noting about Loe is that he does a good job at hitting his target with pitches and is above average at getting hitters to swing and miss, which is likely what intrigues Seattle the most about him. His problem has been that, when hitters make contact, the ball tends to go a long, long way.

So, we’ll see.


Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: brewers, bullpen, japan


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