It has been quite the baseball journey for Rochester Red Wings pitcher Michael Bowden to say the least. It’s a journey that has taken him from Boston to Chicago to Japan on his quest to return to the big leagues.
Originally a first round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2005, Bowden made his MLB debut in 2008 for the club, recording a win in his first start. With depth in both the rotation and the bullpen, it was tough for him to stick in the big leagues and was constantly sent back and forth between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket. Bowden was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2012 and the same situation presented itself despite him posting solid numbers. He was released following the 2013 season and his dream of being a big league pitcher seemed as far away as it ever had.
But Bowden continued to fight and find a way, even if it was a way that not many players have taken. Many times we hear about Japanese players that make the transition over to America, though it is uncommon to hear about Americans that head over to Japan. That’s the road Bowden decided to take, and it is one he is glad he got to experience.
“It was unbelievable,” Bowden said. “I like to travel, so I figured if I had the opportunity to play baseball there and see another part of the world, it doesn’t get much better than that. The fans, the food, the culture, the games, I had a great time.”
Obviously there are going to be challenges anytime one goes to a foreign place to work for the first time. Fortunately for Bowden, the daily routine of a ball player in the states was not among them.
“It’s fairly comparable,” he said about comparing the two. “Batting practice might be a little longer and the days are probably a little longer. Overall it is very much the same as over here.”
Aside from enjoying a new environment and a new culture, Bowden continued to grow as a pitcher with the Seibu Lions. While working to show he could still compete at a high level, he was also able to pick up some new tools that are helping him this year.
“There’s plenty that I learned there,” he explained. “I feel like I’m a student of the game everyday I come to the park, and my time in Japan was no different. My split-finger that I throw now is a good pitch for me and I learned it over there.”
Bowden earned another chance in the states following his run in Japan, signing a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds to start 2015. His contract was purchased by the Baltimore Orioles at the end of spring training and he was assigned to the Norfolk Tides. Bowden shined for his new team, making the International League All-Star team while pitching as both a reliever and a starter. After opting out of his contract on July 16, he signed with the Minnesota Twins on July 26 and was sent to Rochester in hopes of getting back to the MLB. He continues to impress in their rotation, maintaining his place amongst the International League’s ERA leaders. Bowden certainly has done enough to earn a chance to pitch in the majors for the first time since 2013, but until then he continues to do whatever is asked of him while putting up quality numbers.
“I’m just trying to go out every time and get outs while being as consistent as I can in whatever role I’m in,” he said. “Hopefully the results speak for themselves and I’ll have another opportunity.”