When La Salle-Peru graduate Karch Kowalczyk was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers organization at the end of spring training, he and his agent were patient looking for the next opportunity.

“After I got released, I threw for a couple teams and my agent was talking to a couple teams,” Kowalczyk said. “We kind of held off on the (independent) ball route. I stayed in Arizona a little bit, worked out and hung with my brother (Luke). Then I drove back to Illinois. That’s when my agent started contacting indy ball teams.”

Kowalczyk, who pitched in the Dodgers system for five seasons, found the right situation last week.

The 2009 NewsTribune Baseball Player of the Year signed with the Saint Paul Saints, a member of the American Association of Independent Professional baseball.

“I thought I was going to play for a team in Chicago or something, but nothing really came about,” Kowalczyk said. “It was a waiting game for something to come through. The Saints are the one we thought would be the best fit for me because they get a great number of fans, it’s a really nice stadium and it’s a good opportunity for scouts to come watch. We were patient to not rush into playing somewhere I didn’t feel would be the best fit for me. (The Saints) finally had a couple roster spots open up. They called my agent. I found out at 11 a.m. (Wednesday) and I was on the road the next day driving up to Saint Paul. Hopefully, it’ll work out.”

Kowalczyk arrived in Minnesota on Thursday, took a physical and was active for Thursday’s home game.

After the game, the Saints traveled to Gary, Ind. for a three-game series. Kowalczyk made his first appearance Saturday.

“I’m feeling really good,” Kowalczyk said. “I haven’t faced hitters much, but the time off might have been good for my body. I still hit the gym hard and was throwing every day. I figured some things out on my own just throwing and playing around with it. I’m pretty excited.

“It kind of re-instilled the love for baseball having that time off. I’m excited to get out there and see if what I learned and how I feel translates to even more success than before.”

Kowalczyk, who was 14-14 with 19 saves, a 3.50 ERA and 175 strikeouts to 93 walks in 205 1/3 innings in his affiliated career, said he hopes to get into a groove again after not facing hitters for an extended period of time.

“My goals are to get out and compete first of all,” Kowalczyk said. “I want to find my rhythm again since it’s been a little over two months since I faced a hitter. Once I find my rhythm, I want to go out and compete every day and hopefully have success.

“If something else comes out of that with affiliated ball or even a different avenue like winter ball or something, that’s great. But I’m taking it day by day, competing, trying to keep healthy and everything else should take care of itself.”

Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at sports@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.

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