Michael Bowden, RHP, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox promoted Michael Bowden from Triple-A Pawtucket this week, to reinforce the injury-riddled major league pitching staff. It seems like Bowden has been around forever, but he's still a rookie and still just 24 years old. He's spent more than two years in Triple-A, trying to find a way to establish himself in Boston. Will he seize this opportunity?
Bowden was drafted in the supplemental first round in 2005, out of high school in Aurora, Illinois. He emerged quickly as a solid prospect with a fine season in the Sally League in'06, then reached Double-A at age 20 in 2007. An outstanding year for Portland in '08 (2.33 ERA, 101/24 K/BB in 104 innings) got him his first major league exposure, a successful spot start. However, in '09 and '10 he bounced between Triple-A and the majors, performing reasonably well at Pawtucket but not exciting anyone with his major league numbers. In 36 major league innings, he had a 6.69 ERA with a 28/11 K/BB and 50 hits allowed. His Triple-A numbers, in contrast, were much better: 3.24 ERA, 222/93 K/BB in 295 innings, 245 hits. Still, he was getting lost in the shuffle entering 2011, and was disappearing off many prospect lists.
Although a starter for most of his career, Bowden split '10 between the rotation and bullpen in Triple-A, and is a reliever this year. He was pitching excellently in this role for Pawtucket, with a 1.59 ERA and a 28/4 K/BB in his first 23 innings, with just 15 hits allowed. He has nothing left to prove in Triple-A and deserves a full and fair trial in Boston.
He threw 88-92 MPH as a starter, but has been in the 92-94 range in the bullpen. He had a full arsenal when used in the rotation: curve, changeup, and slider, but in relief he relies mostly on the fastball and slider, with an occasional cutter mixed in. His control is strong and he's been very aggressive about throwing strikes when used in relief. Although his mechanics aren't conventional, he's been very durable as a pro, the only gray mark on his record being some elbow soreness early in 2010. His makeup is also considered a positive.
Given his background it isn't out of the question that he could return to starting at some point, but right now relief work is suiting him very well.