The Toronto Blue Jays have signed 1B/OF Adam Loewen to a minor-league contract.
A former pitcher, Loewen will be making the transformation to position player after suffering recurring stress fractures in his pitching elbow the last two seasons. He is the highest Canadian player drafted, selected by the Baltimore Orioles 4th overall in the 2002 draft.
A native of Surrey, British Columbia, the 24-yeard old spent parts of the last three seasons with Baltimore as a pitcher. In 2006, he started for Canada against the United States in the first round of the World Baseball Classic, tossing 3 2/3 shutout innings, and earning the win in an 8-6 victory.
"The fact that I grew up watching the Blue Jays, and was a huge fan all my life, the fact that I was Canadian, that played a big part into it," Loewen said on a conference call. "I looked at my opportunities moving forward and how interested they were, how I fit into their organization and what kind of plan they had for me.
"It was a really difficult decision because I had been an Oriole all my life and that's all I ever knew, but at the same time it was exciting for a chance to play in my home country and the team I rooted for all my life."
Loewen reached the majors as a pitcher in 2006 but gave it up in July after suffering a second stress fracture in his left elbow. It was then he decided to embark on a Rick Ankiel-style comeback despite last hitting on a regular basis in 2003, when he was at Chipola Junior College.
''It was an opportunity to get a kid we really liked as a hitter,'' said GM J.P. Ricciardi. ''The timing has been right, he's a good enough athlete that he can swing the bat and we're going to give him as many at-bats as we can and see where that takes him.''
The Blue Jays also claimed righthanded pitcher Bryan Bullington off waivers from the Cleveland Indians.
The 28-year-old Bullington appeared in three games for the Indians last season, posting a 0-2 record with a 4.92 ERA. In 25 games at the AAA level he posted a 5-9 mark with one save and a 5.20 ERA.
The first overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Pirates, Bullington is 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA over three seasons.
To make room on the roster, outfielder Kevin Mench was designated for assignment.