With the nefarious era of Carlos Marmol as the closer coming to an end to the relief of Cubs fans everywhere, there lies another glaring hole the new regime will have to patch in their efforts to achieve organizational goals. For the forthcoming season, the Cubs have decided to split the role between James Russell and hot prospect, Rafael Dolis.
Whether or not one of these two can win the role and cement himself as the closer of the future remains to be seen. But, do the Cubs have another possible solution for the future closer role in the bullpen?
When the Cubs traded Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox, Boston sent back a talented right-handed pitcher that is not unfamiliar with the Cubs, Epstein\Hoyer, or Chicago. In return for Byrd the Cubs received Waubonsie Valley High graduate, Michael Bowden.
Drafted in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft by Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox, Michael Bowden did not show promise as a starter. However, he did shine as a relief pitcher in the Boston farm system, and even more so as a closer.
During his time at Boston’s AAA-Pawtucket, his numbers as a starter were less than memorable. In his only season as a full-time starter with AAA-Pawtucket, 2009, Bowden amassed a mere 4-6 record out of 24 starts, with a 3.13 ERA.
In 2011, Bowden made 41 appearances as a relief pitcher with a 3-3 record, earning 16 saves in 17 opportunities, and a 2.73 ERA.
There is one aspect of his game, compounded with his Triple-A closing experience, that could give reason for giving Bowden a shot at the Cubs' closer role in the future, and that is his K\BB ratio.
As a starter in 2009 at Pawtucket he had 88 strikeouts to 47 walks, equaling a ratio of 1.8 K's for every base on ball. Yet, as a relief pitcher in 2011, Bowden had 61 strikeouts to 18 walks, a ratio of 3.4 strikeouts for every walk. A very impressive statistic, important to the role of closer.
During his brief time up with the Cubs, Bowden has shown flashes of what he is capable of as a reliever as well as a tolerance for pressure, evidenced by his ninth inning appearance against the Cardinals. If Bowden is able to get more work with the club, and if he can excel as a reliever with the Cubs and cement his spot in the bullpen, I see no reason why he should not receive an opportunity at closer with the team in the near future.
That is, if Russell or Dolis do not supplant themselves as more than a mere temporary solution.