Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bowden not pleased with relief effort

Michael Bowden wasn't satisfied with his effort on Friday night.

He was upset about it.

Bowden has a right to treat everything that happens the rest of the way as gravy. He turned in a pretty impressive season at Triple-A -- he had a 3.13 ERA, third-best in the International League -- and now is pitching out of the bullpen, something he'd done all of three times in five minor-league seasons with the Red Sox.

But he's actually starting to get the hang of it.

He returned to the major leagues in September with a 15.75 ERA thanks to a shelling he endured at the hands of the Yankees at Fenway Park in late August. An awkwardly timed warmup -- he got up and down a couple of times, something starting pitchers never have to do -- in part contributed to the eight hits and three walks he surrendered in relief of Brad Penny.

But that ERA has steadily dropped since the Red Sox brought him back to be the long man in the bullpen. He tossed two scoreless innings against Baltimore on Sept. 8, and after going almost two weeks without pitching, he threw scoreless innings on back-to-back days against the Kansas City Royals.

It has made for quite the adjustment for a starting pitcher accustomed to throwing every five days and not having to warm up during innings or inherit runners on base.

But if the Red Sox see him as a candidate to pitch in long relief in the playoffs -- it's not as though Paul Byrd has done anything to sew up a spot -- the experience has been invaluable.

"I'm comfortable doing it now," he said. "I feel like I know what I'm doing. I know what I need to do to prepare and how much I need to throw to get ready and, just mentally, what my approach needs to be. Being out there for the few weeks I've been out there, even though I haven't been throwing, it's been giving me a sense of confidence. I feel comfortable out there, and I feel a lot better than I did before."

Three days later, he was back out on the mound as part of the effort to relieve the felled Jon Lester. He even struck out the side in the fifth inning, fanning Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera and Derek Jeter in order, all with a fastball that doesn't quite touch 94 miles an hour.

But it got away from him in the sixth. The Red Sox had trimmed the deficit to 6-3 on the strength of a David Ortiz home run, but Bowden couldn't hold it. He walked two of the first four hitters he faced and saw the other two hit ropes to deep center field.

A run-scoring single by Jorge Posada finished off his night.

That, more than the strikeouts, was what had Bowden upset as he dressed in the back corner of the Yankee Stadium visitors' clubhouse.

"We got some momentum, Ortiz hits a two-run home run, and then I go back out there and couldn't keep them where they were at," the 23-year-old righty said. "I couldn't keep them where they were at. I'm disappointed in myself for that, giving them back the momentum. There's a few pitches I wish I could have back -- but other than that, I'll just learn from the experience."

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