Minor Insider: Rangers’ Triple A reliever a submarine commander

Posted Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Elsewhere on the farm Triple A Round Rock: Infielder Alex Buchholz batted .429 in July, but had a .179 average in his first eight games in August. He homered Thursday night, though, his 16th of the season. Double A Frisco: Recently promoted infielder Ryan Rua had two hits Friday, his second game at the Double A level. … Second baseman Rougned Odor, also recently promoted, is batting .324 through his first eight games, while shortstop Luis Sardinas is batting .200 through his first eight games. High A Myrtle Beach: Right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez, a first-round pick this year, allowed two runs on three hits over four innings Thursday in his Pelicans debut. Arizona Rookie League: Right-hander Cody Buckel, one of the organization’s top prospects going into the season, continues to struggle with his command. He walked five batters and had a wild pitch over one-third of an inning in his outing Thursday.

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Not many people grew up watching old tapes of Dan Quisenberry pitching for the Royals, or tuning into A’s telecasts whenever Chad Bradford stepped on the mound.

But Ben Rowen did. He wanted to study how some of the best submarine pitchers went about their business and what made them effective.

Rowen went to high school as a standard over-the-top pitcher, but his coach suggested lowering his arm slot. So Rowen dropped down to a three-quarter delivery and then to a sidearm delivery and, by his senior season, was eventually a full-blown submarine pitcher.

Rowen releases the ball from such a low angle that he’ll occasionally scratch his knuckles on the dirt.

“That’s not fun,” Rowen admitted. “But I try to get as close to the ground as I can.”

So far, it’s paid off for the 24-year-old, who is having another impressive season in the minor leagues.

Rowen has not allowed an earned run since his promotion to Triple A Round Rock in late June. He has given up only two unearned runs over 14 appearances, and has 24 strikeouts to six walks over 21 1/3 innings.

At Double A Frisco, Rowen had a 0.53 ERA over 31 appearances. He struck out 28 and walked 11 over 33 2/3 innings.

“I feel I’ve done pretty well, just throwing strikes and attacking hitters,” Rowen said. “I know I’m kind of funky and off-balance and have been able to throw my fastball and off-speed pitches for strikes.”

Not only does Rowen baffle batters with his odd delivery, he also throws pitches that are rarely seen. His fastball velocity is in the 78-82 mph range, well below the hitting speed velocity.

Once batters are beginning to pick up the speed and angle of his fastball, he can mix in a slider that actually has a slight rise to it. Triple A pitching coach Brad Holman jokes that Rowen’s slider is similar to the rise ball thrown by former softball Olympian Jennie Finch.

“It has that same movement,” Holman said. “He does that to change the eye level of the hitter and to get them off that down-action pitch. He’s not afraid to experiment with it, either. He’s also not afraid of the competition.

“He’s just a two-pitch guy, but he keeps the ball at the knees with good movement. He’s prepared; he knows the opposing hitters and knows his strengths and weaknesses. He’s just the complete package.”

Rowen has had success at every level since the Rangers drafted him in the 22nd round out of Virginia Tech in 2010. He had a 1.09 ERA over 21 outings at Short A Spokane in 2010. In 2011, he posted a 1.98 ERA over 33 games at Low A Hickory and had a 1.57 ERA over 38 games at High A Myrtle Beach last season.

Rowen impressed in spring training, too, and was promoted to big league camp for about a week in mid-March. That showed he had gotten on the Rangers’ radar, and he carried that over to Frisco and now Round Rock.

Maybe at some point in the near future, he’ll be the submarine pitcher that a few kids tune in to see.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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