Over his last two starts, we have seen the Michael Bowden that the Boston Red Sox have come to know and love;the Michael Bowden that earlier this season dominated International League batters and the pitcher Baseball America rated the No. 2 prospect in the organization.
And to a large extent it's because of a 13—day layoff.
In his two starts since returning to the mound, Bowden has:
- Pitched five hitless, scoreless innings on July 19 against Indianapolis and received a no—decision.
- Pitched seven innings of four—hit, two—run ball on July 24 against Columbus (replete with zero walks and five strikeouts) only to come out on the short end of a 3-1 score.
"In this organization with these young pitchers we always pick a time of the year to shut them down," said Pawtucket Red Sox manager Ron Johnson. "We've done this for several years.
"They like to pick a time with these young guys and I think it works great. He was probably going through his roughest time just before we gave him a break. Since he's come back, his two starts have been very good. (Minor league pitching coordinator) Ralph Truel and the other guys in the organization know what they're doing. I've seen it happen for years here and things work out."
Bowden, admittedly, benefited greatly from the rest.
"You know what...I do feel stronger," said Bowden. "But I also worked on a few things in my delivery and I'm getting a little more power out of my delivery. I'm staying over the rubber and it feels like I'm generating a little bit more on my fastball and getting a downward angle.
"Part of the reason why I'm successful is because of that angle. I kind of lost it for a while. But I'm starting to get back into my mechanics and I feel good."
Bowden's game against Columbus underscored how the time off has proven to be a positive.
Not only did he throw 55 of 80 pitches for strikes but he also allowed no more than three hard—hit balls.
One was a first—inning double by Jordan Brown and another was a solo homer by Matt LaPorta into the left-field berm in the fourth.
Brown also sliced an off—field ball that just squeezed inside the left field foul pole and dropped into the Pawtucket bullpen for a classic McCoy Stadium el—cheapo home run.
Altogether, Bowden faced only 24 batters—three over the minimum.
"Mike did a real nice job...he was impressive," said Johnson. "He was pitch efficient. We'll take that any day of the week. He definitely pitched well enough to win."
How true. But the PawSox have been in a hitting funk since July 3—losing 15 of their last 18 games and falling to the bottom in I.L. hitting.
Bowden, for his part, has managed to stuff his frustration in his locker.
"That's baseball," said Bowden. "That happens. We're in a funk and it's taking longer than we expected to get out of it. But I think all of our pitchers understand that it's baseball.
"We're out there doing our jobs. The runs are going to come. That's part of baseball and all we can do is our job."