Red Sox prospect Bowden gets used to bullpen role

Signing with the Red Sox after being drafted out of high school

in 2005, Michael Bowden began his climb through the Boston farm

system and was named the organization’s top pitching prospect by

Baseball America before the 2008 season.

But last season, spent primarily at Triple-A Pawtucket with

three call-ups to Boston, was mostly a year of learning for the

right-hander. With Pawtucket, he went 4-6 with a 3.13 ERA in 24

starts. With the Red Sox he was 1-1 with an 9.56 ERA in eight

appearances.

He was first called to the big leagues last April 26, pitching

two scoreless innings out of the bullpen against the New York

Yankees in a 4-1 win. The next time he faced the Yankees, another

two innings in an August call-up, was a very different story.

In that appearance, Bowden gave up seven runs on eight hits and

three walks in a 20-11 loss. One of the things he learned last

season was that pitching out of the bullpen in the majors is very

different from starting in the minors.

“(In the first outing) I knew what innings I was pitching. I’m

very structured. I’ve started my whole career. So I could prepare

that like a start,” Bowden said. “The second time I got called up

it was very tough, because all it was was a lack of experience. I

didn’t know how many throws my body needed to warm up. I got warmed

up in the second, third. I threw way more than I should have.

“So obviously I learned tons because I won’t ever do that

again.”

Dealing with that kind of adversity can help.

“Almost everyone will go through it,” said Red Sox minor

league pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel. “It’s how they deal with

that will help them determine how successful they can be. And he

did a very good job with it.”

Last season Bowden was working on adding a slider to his

repertoire. He had difficulty with the new pitch at the beginning

of the season but eventually began to throwing it with confidence

and consistency. He is considering shelving his 12-6 curveball,

which he was having trouble throwing for strikes, in favor of the

slider.

“We wanted something that goes away from a righty and would

stay in the strike zone longer,” he said. “And that’s what we

found. So if that’s getting the same thing accomplished as the

curveball was when I was throwing it for strikes, then there

wouldn’t really be a need for (the curveball).”

Bowden also learned at the end of the season that his delivery

needed to be revised. He brought it up to Treuel and Boston

pitching coach John Farrell, knowing something needed to be

changed. They gave him video of Scott Richmond, Joe Blanton, and a

few other pitchers. Bowden spent the offseason reworking his

mechanics.

He’s very excited about his new mechanics.

“This is a lot easier,” he said. “Just by watching me last

year, I was so tense. It didn’t look easy. So this, the first time

I tried it, it felt good. It has not been hard at all. In my first

bullpen I’m throwing right around the zone. I’m a lot more

consistent. I’m staying online. It wasn’t really a hard transition.

Now it’s just a matter or repeating it, and staying as consistent

as I can with it, and that’s what spring training is for.”

Bowden also learned that in spite of that August outing against

the Yankees, he enjoys pitching out of the bullpen. In his third

call-up, he sat 12 days between outings, giving him a chance to

take on a reliever’s mentality.

“I learned so much those 12 days because I was in the bullpen

and I didn’t know (when I was) going to throw,” he said. “So

everyday I had to show up to the park and prepare like I was going

to throw. I really got a good routine down. Just talking to all

those guys in the bullpen. Preparing every day like every time the

phone rang it could be me. I just learned how to prepare like a

reliever. It was just a lot of fun. I didn’t think I’d like it but

I had a blast in the bullpen, and I really enjoyed it.”

This spring is the most optimistic he has felt going into a

season, he said.

“I was so antsy in December to get down to spring training

because I wanted to start throwing, get out there in games,” he

said. “So I’m real excited for this year because I feel much more

well rounded and like a better all-around player.”