Junichi Tazawa is here and ready to go. The 23 year old Japanese product is starting for the PawSox tonight (Tuesday) in Bufffalo. Tazawa earned a promotion from Portland after putting together a 9-5 record with an ERA of 2.57 with the Sea Dogs. His 88 strikeouts wee third best in the Eastern League. Tazawa had already been rewarded with spots in the Double A All Star game and the Futures All Star game. Rain cancelled his scheduled start for the Futures contest. “Taz” signed with Boston in December for a reported 3.3 million dollars. That was alleged to include a 1.8 million dollar signing bonus. Tazawa is said to have spurned a 4 year/7 million dollar agreement with Texas, so he could join compatriot Daisuke Matsuzaka in the Red Sox organization. “Baseball America” rates Tazawa the number 7 prospect in the Sox chain. It weill be interesting to see if RJ uses catcher Dusty Brown on his regular day or if Mark Wagner catches in a reunion with his former Sea Dog batterymate. No doubt, he hopes to join countrymen like Hideo Nomo, Ichiro and Dice as Big League success stories.
Even with the addition of Tazawa, righty Michael Bowden (22) remains the youngest member of the PawSox. He has pitched well in his first full season in Triple A, despite his record (3-5) Bowden boasts a 3.09 ERA. He has surrendered just 3 runs in his last 16 innings of work. At such a tender age, he takes pride in keeping his composure on the field. “Showing any type of emotion gives the hitter the advantage, no matter what is happening. If I’m giving up runs or not, I have the same mentality and keep the same composure no matter what.” Although he would never publicly state it, I’d imagine Michael is frustrated with losing. “I think all the pitchers understand the game. This is baseball. We’ve had an offensive funk that’s lasted longer than anyone on the team would have imagined. All I can do is go out there and do my job and hopefully the wins will start coming later in the year.” Bowden, like all top Boston prospects, got a team-imposed, mini vacation, a 13 day break from starting. Although he doesn’t like it, he grudgingly admits it helped-“I got to work on a lot of things in the bullpen. I figured out what I’d been doing wrong. Since then, I’ve been throwing the ball well. I practiced some things and now I’m going out there and applying them.” Bowden especially didn’t like the timing of his time off. “I don’t like it at all. I was struggling at the time and the last thing a pitcher wants when he isn’t doing well, is time off to dwell on it, but mentally and physically, it was a good breather for me.” Rated the number 2 prospect with Boston, Bowden does not succumb to any of the hype- “It’s fun. Nobody sets higher expectations for myself than I do. The only person I can disappoint is myself. I’m a perfectionist. I just go out there and work as hard as I can to do the best that I can.” Bowden thrives on the confidence he garnered in his two separate turns in Boston. Earlier this season he struck out Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano in an appearance against the Yankees. He carries it with him- “It feels good to have the confidence to know I can get it done. I can get Major League hitters out. When I was sent down I started pressing, knowing I was just a phone call away…I pressed a little bit to get back there. I’m trying to get the weight off my shoulder and just play my game.”