Michael Bowden’s Transition to Bullpen Gives Him Big League Potential

For the past few years, Michael Bowden eyed the Red Sox’ strong starting rotation and wondered if and when he would ever fit in.

Although he had aspirations of making it as a starter, and the organization has always held him in high regard in that role, both sides are extremely excited with his transformation into a reliever.

That transformation is just about complete, as the 23-year-old was brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday, a move that figures to be much more than a short-term fix.

“We’re really looking forward to this,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

So, too, is Bowden, who has embraced the role since beginning the conversion a few weeks ago in Pawtucket, where he has thrown six innings of scoreless relief since July 7.

“The adrenaline, the excitement,” Bowden said when asked what he liked about relieving. “Just being able to be aggressive off the bat and that you only have three or six outs to get, just everything. It fits my mentality well and it is just fun.

“Every time the phone rings, your heart skips a beat. It is an instant adrenaline rush. Where in starting it is five days to prepare and you have pressure to prepare, relieving you come to the park every day thinking you could pitch.”

Francona indicated that Bowden’s exact role in the bullpen has yet to be determined and will depend largely on how he performs; however, the skipper made it clear that the right-hander will factor heavily in key roles.

“We don’t want to hide him and have him pitch the third inning of blowout games,” Francona said. “We think there’s a chance this kid can really help us win some games.”

Part of Bowden’s work out of the bullpen in Pawtucket involved coming into some hairy situations. It was a goal of the team to see how he responded to such scenarios, and he responded well.

In his six innings of relief, Bowden yielded only one hit, struck out five and did not walk a batter. His off-speed stuff, particularly his slider, has been even better than it was when he started games, Francona said.

Bowden, a first-round pick in 2005, will join a collection of homegrown hurlers in the bullpen. Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Manny Delcarmen and now Bowden have come up through the organization’s ranks, and there is a good chance that the quartet will comprise the back end of the bullpen at least through next season.

Despite spending five-plus seasons in the organization as a starter, that sits just fine with Bowden, who is happy relieving other homegrown talents such as Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

“With this ballclub and the starting rotation, I figured this would be my best opportunity to help the ballclub,” Bowden said.

When he does, it will represent another moment of pride for the club, seeing one of its own fill a much-needed role.

“We do enjoy it,” Francona said. “I think sometimes that’s probably misrepresented because we’re supposed to win and we have a high payroll. I think we like when our kids come through and help us.”

They could use the help, too. Boston’s bullpen ranks 13th in the American League with a 4.57 ERA and has allowed a major league-high 41 home runs.

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