The Toronto Blue Jays made a minor roster move during Monday afternoon’s game against the Minnesota Twins, claiming 26-year old relief pitcher Ben Rowen off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. Rowen has also spent times with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations since being drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2010. He will head to AAA Buffalo to join the Bisons bullpen.
Rowen is a unique specimen because he pitches submarine-style. Darren O’Day is likely the most familiar submarine pitcher to most Blue Jays fans, and in watching Rowen’s delivery, I often see him release his pitches even lower than O’Day.
His Major League experience is limited to 8.2 innings in 2014 with the Texas Rangers where he allowed 10 hits and four earned runs. There’s nothing to draw from these numbers, but his Minor League totals have been extremely impressive.
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Rowen owns a career Minor League ERA of 1.75 in over 300 innings, and most impressive of all, he’s allowed just seven home runs over his career. That’s good for a HR/9 total of 0.2, which is a beautiful thing. In 46.2 innings between AA and two different AAA stops in 2015, Rowen is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 0.964 WHIP.
You’ll see a fastball, slider and changeup in Rowen’s repertoire out of the Buffalo bullpen, but I use the term”fastball” quite liberally. According to his PITCHf/x date from FanGraphs, Rowen will top out around 79 MPH. When paired with his unique release point and downward movement, this allows him to find the bottom of bats and produce ground balls at a very high rate.
Buffalo will be the first stop for the right-hander, but he’s a name worth keeping in the back of your minds when the September roster expansions come around. Much like a speedy base-running specialist off the bench in September, Rowen could offer that one strange piece out of the bullpen that comes in to cross up an opponent. If he is joined in AAA Buffalo by Aaron Loup, could you imagine those two pitching back-to-back? Talk about differing release points.
Much like Toronto’s acquisition of Joba Chamberlain, Rowen is another opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle while still keeping the AAA club afloat (something Joba’s have some early struggles with). Like Minor League signings, there’s rarely such a thing as a bad waiver claim, so add the submarine man to the outskirts of your radar.