One of the best things about being a minor league broadcaster is that you really get to know the players. For starters, the radio guys are the only members of the media that are around the team every day – home and away. Additionally, since you travel with the players, you share some of the misery on the late night bus rides and crack-of-dawn flights.
As a result, you wind up feeling like you have a stake in their success, and one of the players that I really root for is Michael Bowden.
The 24-year-old pitcher is off to a good start in 2011. Bowden pitched 3 scoreless innings in his last relief appearance on Tuesday in Buffalo, and in his first 3 outings has only allowed 2 hits in 6 innings with 5 strikeouts.
“I feel great – I’m throwing the ball really well,” Bowden told me. “In my second outing, I gave up a 2-run home run (Buffalo’s Jason Pridie), but it was a 0-2 pitch and I thought it was a good pitch and he got the barrel on the ball. But other than that, I’m healthy and throwing strikes and I feel good.”
Bowden’s first outing was on Opening Night at McCoy Stadium and he pitched a perfect 9th inning to record his second career save in the PawSox 2-1 win. In that game, he threw several fastballs that hit 94 mph on the stadium radar gun.
“I feel very strong right now,” Bowden said. “I feel healthy, I’m throwing the ball with confidence, and I don’t think I hit 94 mph all last year.”
After being a starter for his first five professional seasons, Bowden was moved to the bullpen in early July last year, and was quickly promoted to Boston. He wound up having three separate stints with the Red Sox, going 0-1 with a 4.70 ERA in 14 appearances.
Does he have a preference between starting and relieving?
“There are pros and cons to both, but I like going to the ballpark every day knowing that I have a chance to pitch,” Bowden said. “You really feel like a part of the team when you are able to do that. It’s a lot of fun when you go into the game in important moments and have to execute your pitch.”
This is Michael’s 4th year with Pawtucket after getting promoted from Double-A Portland in July of 2008. Following that season, Bowden was rated the #1 pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization and he’s pitched very well for Pawtucket posting a 3.37 ERA with an opponent batting average of .228 in 278 Triple-A innings. But even though he is the same age as fellow pitching prospects Kyle Weiland, Alex Wilson, Jason Rice, and Junichi Tazawa, Bowden seems to have slipped under the radar.
“I try not to pay attention to that,” Bowden said. “It’s just like it is in Boston– you could throw five great games in a row and if you have one bad outing, people are all over you. That’s just the way it goes. But if you don’t worry about that stuff and just keep pitching, things fall into place.”
Bowden is the type of kid we all root for. He’s friendly, polite, and totally dedicated to becoming the best pitcher he can possible be. His mother Nancy raised a great young man, and Michael gets tremendous support from his mom, his two sisters, and wife Markella whom he married last November.
“We’ve known each other since our freshman year of high school, so she was always there supporting me,” Bowden said. “We didn’t start dating until her sophomore year of college, but she’s been with me since my second full season of pro ball. She’s been in it almost as long as I have and you have to give credit to the spouses, family, and friends, because they’re the ones that are traveling to come see us, and they’re the ones that have to deal with our lifestyle.”
Michael has earned a call-up to Boston in each of the last three seasons, and I have little doubt that he’ll earn another this year.
Trust me – nobody will work harder to make it happen.
* * * * *
Thursday was a lousy day for the PawSox as they got swept in a doubleheader in Syracuse. Bad defense cost them game one as Pawtucket committed four errors including three by Yamaico Navarro at third base.
But the day wasn’t a total loss. Kyle Weiland was sensational in his second Triple-A start, striking out 10 batters in 4.2 IP. Robert Coello was the only Pawtucket starter to have a double-digit strikeout game last year as he whiffed 10 batters at Scranton/WB on June 22.
Rich Hill, Jason Rice, Clevelan Santeliz, and Hideki Okajima were excellent out of the bullpen as they combined to pitch 7.2 innings without allowing an earned run.
Okajima has been “lights out” in his first 4 appearances (4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K), and Santeliz has not allowed a hit in his first 5.2 IP.
The PawSox 7-game road trip concludes on Friday at 7:00 pm with Andrew Miller making his 2nd start in a Pawtucket uniform. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is email@example.com.
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’ve finally joined Facebook. Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.