Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ken Rowe, Lot of Knowledge - 693

Originally published April 10, 2011; Updated Nov. 27, 2012
Ken Rowe appraised his young right-hander Bill Fulton. He hadn't done badly at AAA Columbus, the pitching coach Rowe told Fulton's hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in May 1987.

He'd had a lot to adjust to, moving to spot starting and relief work.

"Bill has to get command of at least three pitches," Rowe told The Post-Gazette of Fulton. "His curveball and fastball are good, but he still needs another pitch."

Whatever work Rowe did with Fulton, Fulton made his only trip to the majors later that year. It was a trip Rowe had been on before, both as a player and as a coach.

Rowe played parts of three seasons in the majors and coached for two. And his career continued into 2011, serving as a minor league pitching adviser.

Rowe's playing days lasted a total of 15 seasons, starting in 1953 as a 19 year old in the Tigers system. He didn't make the majors until a decade later, with the Dodgers in 1963. In 14 relief appearances, he posted a 2.93 ERA.

He returned to AAA for 1964, going 16-11 with a 1.77 ERA. He also posted that ERA after a staggering 88 appearances at Spokane, the organized baseball record. That September, he was traded to the Orioles, a trade welcomed by Rowe.

"I hope to get a better opportunity to work in the major leagues," Rowe told The Spokane Spokesman-Review. "I don't know now what the Orioles have in mind for me but I don't think Baltimore is the kind of organization that would buy a guy and then let him sit on the bench."

Those plans included Rowe making it to Baltimore for another six appearances in 1964, then six more in 1965. Long term, two decades later, plans also included Rowe serving two seasons as the Orioles big league pitching coach.

Rowe pitched in the minors through 1968, starting his coaching career then. By 1985, he was with Baltimore as pitching coach, that was after years coaching with the Orioles at lower levels.

One of the young players Rowe watched over was Eric Bell. Speaking to Bell's hometown paper, The Modesto Bee, Rowe liked what he saw.

"I've known him for a long time - I worked with him in the minor leagues, and in Instructional League," Rowe told The Bee in September 1986. "So far, he's shown a lot of promise. We're very pleased."

Out as Orioles coach after that year, Rowe signed on with the Yankees at AAA Columbus, staying there through 1990. He soon signed on with the Indians system, where he remained for 2011.

He served as pitching coach at Watertown in 1995, then AAA Buffalo in 1999 and 2000. From 2006 to 2010, Rowe served as pitching coach at short-season Mahoning Valley, watching over pitchers like Russell Young.

In 2008, Young worked to make the move from college to the pros, The Youngstown Vindicator wrote.

"I'm making the adjustment," Young told The Vindicator that June. "I'm trying to get my feet wet. I've learned a lot of knowledge from [pitching coach] Ken Rowe ... I need to keep building my arm strength and continue to develop some breaking balls and work on my command."

Rowe continued with the Indians until his passing in November 2012 of pneumonia at the age of 78.

After Rowe's passing, Indians director of player development Ross Atkins recalled to MLB.com that Rowe embodied everything the organization looked for in staff and players.

"In the world of professional baseball," Atkins told MLB.com, "there are always things that come to mind with the sacrifices and passion and toughness it takes not only to compete at the highest level but also to be a leader. You can't be short on any of those traits and Ken Rowe had them all. He was exceptionally bright, exceptionally passionate and exceptionally tough and was really willing to do whatever it took to help young professional baseball players."

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