Loe’s star is on the rise

first_imgANAHEIM – Kameron Loe would tell you it’s all been a blur, only that would infer some lengthy period of time that’s gone by quickly. He might honestly say he’s been surprised, but that would indicate he isn’t exactly where he always figured he’d be. Where Loe will be tonight is on the mound for the Texas Rangers, trying to hinder the Angels’ attempt at capturing the American League West title. After just over two years in the Rangers’ minor-league system, the former Granada Hills High and Cal State Northridge standout will be attempting to capture the 10th victory of his rookie season. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 “I’m really excited about going for my 10th,” Loe said. What the Angels will find tonight not exactly the typical right-hander. First there is his 6-foot-8 size. It can be intimidating. “I hope so anyway,” he said. There is the way he comes at hitters from two different arm angles. His cap will conceal a premature receding hairline and shaven head, though the goatee will be clearly visible. Then back at home is the boa constrictor, that for laughs, he sometimes brings to the clubhouse. center_img Loe, 24, will be making his sixth start of the season tonight since being called up in May and initially getting heavy work out of the bullpen. As a reliever he typically worked late innings, going 5-4 with a 4.17 ERA and one save. His work was strong enough that the Rangers – forever in need of starting pitching and having shuttled ex-Dodgers Chan Ho Park and Pedro Astacio – have given him a late opportunity at showing how he can perform as a starter. “It’s been a pretty successful year for me,” he said. “I’ve had a chance to show the team what I can do and hopefully solidify a spot for myself next year. “I was in the bullpen for quite awhile. It’s always been my goal to be a starter and now I’m trying to take advantage of it.” In his five starts this season, Loe has looked like someone finding themselves a home. He is 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA as a starter. “He’s going to be a starter next year,” said Rangers manager Buck Showalter. Showalter caught himself, like he was worried he’d already given him a spot in next year’s rotation, quickly adding this wasn’t really some late-season audition. “This isn’t exactly a tryout,” he said. “We know he can go out of the bullpen, and now he’s getting a chance to do it as a starter.” Loe credits his success this season – he also made his first career start last year against the Angels after a September call-up, earning a no-decision with four earned runs in four innings – to a familiar name. Rangers pitching coach Orel Hershiser. “It’s really helped working with Orel,” he said. “He’s taught be so much. He works on the mental approach and talks to me about using my legs and arm position.” But one of the first things Hershiser taught Loe was to simply trust his fastball. Hershiser said Loe normally throws in the low 90s, which is neither bad nor outstanding at the major-league level. “We had to take pitches away from him in the bullpen to prove to him his fastball really was good enough at this level,” Hershiser said. “It has real good movement. “In one game he struck out Alex Rodriguez on three fastballs. He never thought he could do that. “In the bullpen he learned his sinking fastball is good enough, now we’re finding out if the rest of his pitches are good enough for him to be a starter.” Hershiser knows Loe’s preference is to be a starter, but also realizes that’s the typical choice of most young pitchers. “I think he’s like a lot of young pitchers and has always wanted to be a starter,” Hershiser said. “Whether that’s the dream or reality is what gets answered at this level. “Every day is a tryout in the majors. Whether you’re a veteran trying to stay here or a young guy coming up from the minors trying to make it.” Loe fairly skyrocketed through the Rangers system after being selected in the 20th round in the 2002 draft. After a short-season rookie year, Loe spent most of the next season at Single-A Stockton. He split ’04 between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma, becoming the organization’s minor-league pitcher of the year, before his September call-up. After spending most of this season with the Rangers, Loe is beginning to feel comfortable at the major-league level. “I had 45-50 innings out of the bullpen and was put into a lot of pressure situations,” he said. “I learned to slow the game down quite a bit. “A lot of it comes just from experience. Before you might get a couple of guys on early with no out and go, ‘Oh, my God, I’m in trouble here. Now I’ve learned to take it one step at a time and it helps to take away the pressure.” Loe hopes a couple of final strong starts will have him penciled in the Rangers rotation going into camp next spring. It has been a furious rise though the Texas system for a 20th-round pick, somehow both surprising and expected. “I had all the confidence in the world in myself, but I didn’t know I would happen this fast,” Loe said. Steve Dilbeck’s column appears in the Daily News four times a week. 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