Thad Lowry is a pitcher trying to find direction.
And as long as he keeps his pitches down, that direction might be up – as he just might advance in the Chicago White Sox’s minor league system.
Whichever path the Lowry’s career takes, his powerful right arm can be credited for the fine season he’s patched together in 2015.
Through June 7, Lowry led the Kannapolis Intimidators’ starting pitchers with 60.1 innings pitched and was tied for victories with six, sharing that distinction with Jordan Guerrero, who had been called up to Winston-Salem, the White Sox’s high-Class A team, on June 3.
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With Guerrero out of the rotation, Lowry also was the Intimidators’ leader in strikeouts, with 56.
Though Lowry has been effective in most of his outings, there are two things that he, his manager and pitching coach all agree on: Lowry needs to keep his pitches low in the strike zone and be more consistent overall.
“With his mechanics, he doesn’t give his hand time enough to get out front,” said Kannapolis manager Tommy Thompson. “He’s late, so his balls are up and out of the zone. He knows it. (Pitching coach Jose Bautista) knows it.
“They’re working on drills and mechanics in the bullpen between innings. It’s just a matter of duplicating your delivery pitch-to-pitch. When he’s locked in, he’s a major-league pitcher.”
Thompson is managing Lowry for the first time this season, but Bautista has been Kannapolis’ pitching coach the last two seasons and has seen Lowry progress.
Lowry’s earned run average has dropped almost a full point since last season, from 4.76 in 2014 to 3.88 this season.
He already has reached more strikeouts in 10 starts this season (52) than he had in 17 starts last year (43). This season, Lowry is averaging six innings per start, up an inning from last year.
“I’ve been waiting for him to get the stuff I’ve been teaching him since last year,” Bautista said. “He’s been throwing three great pitches: fastball, slider and change-up. He just needs to be more consistent down in the zone.
“Location will come later. As long as he can throw strikes down (in the strike zone) first, then we’ll teach him that location.”
Lowry’s making pretty good progress considering he’s been a full-time pitcher for less than three years. Growing up in Spring, Texas, and attending the high school of the same name, Lowry was more of a pro prospect as a catcher through his junior year.
“Catching was my main thing to do in high school, and I was recruited early for that,” Lowry said. “I filled out my body as time progressed. I started getting taller, started doing two-way (catching and pitching) in my junior year, and eventually I transitioned to pitcher full-time because that’s where everyone said I’d be most productive.
“Scouts saw me mainly as a thrower because it was my first year truly pitching. But I had a powerful arm and they told me they saw some raw potential.”
Lowry, who attended the same high school as former Major League All-Star pitcher Josh Beckett, was a select baseball team teammate of White Sox prospect Courtney Hawkins, Chicago’s No. 1 pick in the 2012 first-year player draft. Jake Jarvis, who plays for the organization’s Arizona White Sox, also is from Spring and played for rival Klein Collins High.
Lowry had the opportunity to play at Texas Tech, where he planned to major in engineering. He was drafted in the fifth round by the White Sox and felt the parent club made a fair offer for him to sign professionally.
Now he’s trying to engineer his 95 mph fastball and newly found change-up and make a major league career for himself.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at email@example.com.