While many young pitchers have been getting their first taste of the major leagues on the 2004 Baltimore Orioles staff, the top prospect in the organization still has a long way to go.

Adam Loewen, the fourth player selected overall in the 2002 draft, is 2-3 with a 4.44 ERA for less-advanced Class A Delmarva, one step below Class A Frederick.

The hard-throwing left-hander did not make his organizational debut until June 29, 2003, due to an extended contract dispute, during which he played one season for Chipola Junior College in Florida.

So, two years after being drafted, the 20-year-old has pitched just 74 innings of professional baseball -- 231/3 innings at short-season Class A Aberdeen and 502/3 innings so far for Delmarva. He was shut down in August 2003 after seven starts (0-2, 2.70 ERA) after showing signs of arm fatigue and recently came off the disabled list for Delmarva.

"I need to continue building strength and velocity," he said. "My velocity was definitely climbing before I was injured. I didn't lose any while I was off to heal, and now it is climbing again, and with more consistency at 92 [mph]. During the long offseason, because of my early shutdown, it took a couple of [miles per hour] off of my speed."

His injury this season was not from throwing a ball, but from cramming his 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame into a seat for those long South Atlantic League bus rides.

"Really, I believe it was due to a nine-hour bus ride. I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep and by the time I did, I was in a strange position," Loewen said. "You know, I can not fit into buses to save my life, so I never really get much sleep on them. It's a form of torture."

He was placed on the injured list May 23, activated June 10 and has been brought back slowly -- his pitch count increasing with each game. He is up to about 90 per game and had his best outing of the year July 3, when he threw five innings and gave up two hits and one run while striking out six.

But he's knows there is still a long road ahead.

"If I was satisfied now, there would be no point in me even being here," he said. "My ultimate goal is for me to be in the big leagues and I think that everyone else expects that of me, and so do I. So, I don't feel any added pressure over it. I just want to go out and play and have a good second half of the season and stay healthy. I just want to move up."