The Boston Red Sox had to make a decision recently. They moved Michael Bowden out of the PawSox starting rotation and into the bullpen. The Sox do not just go around willy-nilly making decisions on a whim. Given the state of their pen (battered and bruised) and given the way Michael has been pitching (very well), it seems to make a lot of sense. For the season, Michael Bowden had gone 4-3 with a 3.77 ERA (before Wednesdays’ relief appearance). Sounds OK, right? Consider these numbers. In his last 7 starts, he was 3-1 with an ERA of 1.83, allowing just 9 earned runs in the last 44 plus innings. His last start was an absolute gem. He allowed one run on one hit (home run by Scrantons’ Juan Miranda) in 7.2 innings. He made his relief debut for 2010 Wednesday ajnd didn’t disappoint. In 2 innings, he allowed just one hit and had a strikeout and no walks. His effort helped the PawSox cement a win in Lehigh Valley, 4-2.
Michael and I sat down before the game and talked about his “new job”. “Two days ago, I got the information from Torey (Lovullo) that I am now a permanent member of the PawSox bullpen.” The 23 year old righthander, who is rock solid in every way, recognizes that this is not a demotion and could lead to big things. “When he told me, I was actually very excited. My little bit of time in the bullpen last year in the Big Leagues- I learned a lot. I really liiked knowing that I had the opportunity to go out every day and pitch. I just have to change my mindset. Like I said, I was very excited. I think there is a reason behind everything the Red Sox do and hopefully, in the grand scheme of things, it gets me to the Big Leagues faster and I stay there and help the ballclub win.”
Although Michael has been with Pawtucket for parts of three seasons now, almost 2 full years, he never shows his emotions in public. If he’s frustrated, you’d never know. His maturity shines through consistently. He does not expect anything he hasn’t earned. “That’s part of the game. There are many ups and downs. I started the year badly and therefore I didn’t expect to get a promotion any time soon. I’m a guy who feels like you have to earn it, and I didn’t feel like I had at the beginning of the season. I’m throwing better now and I’m in the bullpen and hopefully the transition goes smoothly and everything will fall into place.”
Michael understands that there will be adjustments to be made, both physically and mentally. He is prepared to handle the task. “Starters on the PawSox staff try to be very efficient with the pitch count. We try to induce early contact, hit corners, hit our spots, hoping that we put the ball in play early, wanting to go further into games. In relief, I can let it go a little bit. I can do my job, knowing that I don’t have to face the hitters 2 or 3 times in a ballgame. I can go out for an inning or two, go out there and give everything I’ve got, and do eveything I can to get three outs.” Bowden adds that it isn’t all physical. “Definitely, mentally, in the bullpen you have to a lot more aggressive, know the situations, know the score, clean innings. Yeah, overall, it’s a different mindset. You just have to be aggressive and go after hitters.”
Michael Bowden can pinpoint the moment that his season turned around and he started throwing like the “old” Michael again. “I worked on a lot of mechanical issues during the offseason and at Spring Training. I’ve had a lot of repitition, going out there and trying to make it feel very good every day. I started developing some bad habits with my right arm, just getting a little bit ‘long’ , so therefore I was opening up and my head wasn’t staying on line. I was developing bad habits. My mechanics stayed the same, I just shortened up my arm path, getting in a better position to throw, and that enabled me to throw the ball a lot better.” Bowden admits that things turned around for him at that point. “Me, and Rich (Sauveur) and Dusty Brown were talking. I had one bullpen session where I worked just on the different arm path, and my very next start, was at that point, my best start of the season. After that, I started throwing the ball much better. It actually clicked pretty quickly. I am glad about that, but now it’s about getting the repititions and be as consistent as possible.”
Bowden is a quick study. Nobody outworks him. My bet is that he joins the bullpen and former starters like Daniel Bard and Dustin Richardson, and helps Boston get to the postseason.