PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Aside from ravaging his left arm, Adam Loewen's professional pitching career sapped him of his athleticism. It was not until Loewen converted to the outfield full-time in 2009 that he noticed his inability to cover the same type of ground he did during a standout high school career.
"There's not a lot of change-of-direction-type-stuff on the mound, and that's really what you lose," said Loewen, who was also a strong volleyball player in high school. "You lose all those little muscles that fire and react."
Initially, Loewen played basketball to try to reclaim some of his athleticism. He has since become more comfortable with his range, playing a career-high 19 games in center field last season after beginning his outfield transition on the corners.
That versatility may be the edge that Loewen needs to make the team. Competing directly with Mike Baxter, Loewen must prove that he can cover enough ground in center field to be Andres Torres' primary backup, in the event that Scott Hairston starts the season on the disabled list. If he can do so, Loewen may hold an advantage over Baxter, a natural infielder who has been working with first-base coach Tom Goodwin on developing his center-field skills.
For both men, much work remains. Loewen misplayed Donovan Solano's single into an error in the fourth inning Sunday, after committing two errors in 19 games as a center fielder last season. Baxter, meanwhile, has yet to appear in center, though he would have done so Sunday had rain not interfered.
"Loewen and Baxter both we've got to see in center field, because that's going to be part of that [backup outfield] role if something should happen," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "So we're going to run them both out there at times."