CHICAGO – Kameron Loe’s coast-to-coast traveling show made its third major league stop of 2013 Sunday when the Braves purchased the veteran pitcher’s contract from Triple-A Gwinnett and flew him to Chicago.
“Good to be here,” said Loe, a 6-foot-8 right-hander who struggled with Seattle and the Chicago Cubs this season before being released and signing a minor-league deal with the Braves.
He pitched well at Gwinnett – 4-2 with a 3.19 ERA in 21 games, including four starts – and was brought up to provide a fresh bullpen arm for the Braves, who were down a reliever after David Carpenter worked three innings Saturday.
“Feeling good, throwing the ball well,” Loe said before Sunday’s series finale against the White Sox. “Getting a bunch of ground balls, feeling healthy, ready to go.”
The Braves had gone with a six-man bullpen instead of their usual seven since sending left-hander Alex Wood to Gwinnett on July 13, when they brought up Jose Constanza after losing all three starting outfielders to injuries in a two-day span.
Knowing that Carpenter would be unavailable Sunday, they reached down to the Triple-A ranks to get another arm to Chicago. Loe, 31, was told after Gwinnett’s game Saturday that he’d been summoned to the majors.
With one previously injured outfielder (Justin Upton) back in the lineup since Friday and another (Jason Heyward) expected to return Monday against the Mets, the Braves optioned utility player Tyler Pastornicky to Gwinnett to open a spot for Loe.
“(Pastornicky) needs to go down and keep playing,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Sitting on the bench is not helping his development. He’ll go down and continue playing all those positions – second base, shortstop, the outfield. Keep moving him around.”
The move made for a bit of an awkward exchange Sunday in the clubhouse, when Loe greeted his former Gwinnett teammate Pastornicky and asked how things were going. He didn’t know Pastornicky was the one sent down to open a roster spot.
Another former Gwinnett teammate, Constanza, stood on a chair to give the towering Loe a welcoming hug. (Constanza is a foot shorter.)
He’s huge, but not a hard thrower, working in the 88-92 mph range with his fastball. Loe is sinker/slider pitcher who also throws a four-seam fastball, cutter and changeup, though he doesn’t break out the changeup often as a reliever.
He has a 33-41 record and 4.46 ERA in 313 games (47 starts) in parts of nine seasons with the Rangers, Brewers, Cubs and Mariners.
“When was with the Brewers, had had back-to-back years with over 70 appearances, and he was good,” Gonzalez said, referring to 2011-2012, when Lowe had ERAs of 3.50 in 72 appearances, and 4.61 in 70. “He’s been with us most of the year in Triple-A, and pitching well.”
Loe had a 10.80 ERA in 11 games (four starts) with the Mariners and Cubs this season, allowing 13 earned runs and nine homers in 15 innings.
“There was obviously a couple of things I needed to do to get straight,” he said. “I gave up nine home runs in April – pretty bad. My stuff was flat, and had to make a couple of adjustments, but I’ve been feeling good lately.”
He was particularly effective as a starter for Gwinnett, going 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in four games.
“I was up to 90-some pitches, so whatever they need out of me,” Loe said. “I hope to be here for the rest of the season and help them win.”