In exchange for five months of Marlon Byrd's services, the Cubs received local pitcher Michael Bowden and a player to be named later. Bowden, 25, was recently designated for assignment by the Red Sox along with minor league catcher Luis Exposito.
Having selected Bowden in the supplemental portion of the first round of the 2005 draft, Cubs President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer took the chance to turn a short-term asset in Byrd into a long-term asset in Bowden.
Right now, the Cubs have a short- and long-term need both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. While Bowden hasn't been a starter since about mid-2010, he had success at a young age in the higher levels of the minor leagues as a starter.
As recently as the 2009 season, Bowden was a full-time starter. As a 22-year-old pitching in AAA, Bowden went 4-6 with a 3.13 ERA in 126 1/3 innings over 24 starts, for an average of just over 5 1/3 innings per start. To that end, Bowden has only one career complete game, back in 2007 in AA.
In the middle of 2010, the Red Sox moved Bowden to the bullpen mid-season. In 2011, the move yielded results, as he was Boston's AAA affiliate's closer. Bowden posted a 3-3 record, going 16/17 in save opportunities with a 2.73 ERA.
His success in short relief would seem to show that Bowden never quite had the stuff and/or arm strength to go deep into games. Both things can likely be fixed if Bowden's arm is in top shape. Just adding one pitch can yield night and day results—just look at what Philip Humber has done since joining the White Sox.
For the time being, Bowden will likely be viewed as a reliever to be stashed at AAA for insurance purposes. At some point in the future, the Cubs could look to try and convert Bowden back into a starter. In either role, Bowden could be a very solid role player for the Cubs, be it as a seventh or eighth inning type of guy, or as a mid-rotation starter.
By any measure, being able to get someone with Bowden's talent for a struggling veteran outfielder with an expiring contract is a win for the Cubs. For now, Bowden will report to AAA and likely fill a late-inning role. He'll likely see himself on the MLB roster by the end of the season, and hopefully for years to come.
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