Difficult Times for M's 2004 Fifth Rounder

APPLETON, Wisc. - The 2005 season has been very frustrating for Mark Lowe, the Mariners fifth round pick in 2004. He has looked like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the mound, blowing hitters away one night and getting eaten alive the next. The Texan native is 6-4 with a 5.83 ERA, 56 strikeouts and 35 walks.

"It just feels like a rollercoaster," said Mark Lowe about is up and down season. "I have two good games and then I have two bad games. When I throw a bad pitch I know what I did every single time. I just haven't been able to make the adjustment out on the mound."

"Lowe is the kind of guy, who has been either completely on or completely off," said Wisconsin pitching coach Brad Holman. "And for whatever reason he has trouble stopping the snowball from rolling downhill."

One problem that has hampered Lowe's development this season has been injuries. The right-hander has had more than his fair share of them to battle this season. Early on in the year he had some minor finger injuries and later broke his hand on June 4. He missed over a month while healing, and says he's finally back to full health.

"The injuries cut down on the number of innings," said Scott Steinmann, the Timber Rattlers' first-year manager. "So I think he might put undue pressure on himself to possibly get his stats in a position where they're more respectable. But we're not concerned about his stats, we're concerned about his health and development as a pitcher."

The Wisconsin coaching staff sees Lowe's great potential and they understand his struggles. And they are working hard to help him gain more consistency each time he steps out on the mound.

"As of right now what I see is (Lowe) is a typical Single A ball pitcher with good stuff," said Steinmann. "He needs to be in Single A ball because he's very inconsistent and just needs to learn how to pitch, and he needs to learn how to calm himself down and deliver quality pitches time after time instead of letting his emotions get in the way and control his environment."

Because the former fifth round pick has such talent the coaching staff has wasted no time working him. Pitching coach Brad Holman has worked with Lowe a lot this season and it's just a matter of things clicking.

"He's been talking to me all year and we finally found a release point, mechanics that I can repeat over and over," said Lowe of Holman, himself a former Mariners pitcher. "The way he teaches is amazing. It's a very repeatable delivery. And that's why I'm sure he's frustrated, not that he's not doing his job, but because I'm not doing what he's asking me to do."

While Lowe understands what is expected of him, it's become a matter of consistency. Much of the problem, he hopes, will disappear with experience and maturity.

"Lowe is a guy that, as he pitches more, is going to gain more maturity as a pitcher and as a result be able to focus in situations where things aren't going his way," said Holman. "And that's something that at this level is hard to get these guys to do."

Like many minor league players. Lowe often seems frustrated on the field and consequentially goes through bouts where he loses his concentration.

"I think his biggest nemesis is simply frustration," said Holman. "He lets that set in and he doesn't know how to reestablish focus once frustration sets in. It's a matter of taking some lumps, going out there and learning some things the hard way."

"I know when I'm missing and I just haven't made those adjustments," said Lowe. "And that's my focus from here on out through the rest of the season. If I've got something going wrong I need to fix it right then, instead of three innings later when I'm already out of the game."

While it is too risky to assume that Lowe will develop the consistency needed to excel, it's also far too early to rule him out. With his natural abilities, he still has a chance to help out the organization for years to come.

It's going to take a conscious effort to get away from but nevertheless it's repairable," said Holman about Lowe's problems with consistency. "He's a pretty smart kid, he's a go-getter, he likes the ball and he's not afraid. He's got everything going his way with the exception of that."

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