Bowden feels right at home with Cubs

Updated 3/18/2013 11:44 AM
  • Cubs pitcher Michael Bowden

    Cubs pitcher Michael Bowden

PHOENIX -- Michael Bowden landed at "home" last year with the Cubs, but forgive him if it took awhile for him to get settled.

The trip, or in Bowden's case, the trips, represented something of a whirlwind.

First, he made the Boston Red Sox roster out of spring training before being designated for assignment April 15. Just six days later he found himself traded to the Cubs in a deal that sent outfielder Marlon Byrd to Boston.

The Cubs designated him for assignment on June 1, eventually sending him outright to Class AAA Iowa.

But things ended well -- and then some -- as the Cubs brought him back Aug. 13 and he excelled the rest of the season.

Today, this 26-year-old graduate of Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora and resident of Oswego is looking to pick up where he left off in the Cubs' bullpen at the end of last year.

And he's feeling much more settled.

"Definitely," he said. "I went through a lot last year as far as making the Red Sox, getting designated, traded over here, getting designated, sent to Triple-A and getting called back up. Yeah, definitely whirlwind.

"I went though some things, but I settled in at the end of the year and got comfortable. Yeah, it feels good to be here. I love the organization. I love the players on the team. It's a good place for me."

Bowden's 2012 season definitely was a tale of two halves.

Before the all-star break, he had an ERA of 6.39, a WHIP (walks plus hits per 1 inning pitched) of 1.74, and batters hit .320 against him. After the break, the ERA was 1.33, the WHIP was to 1.00, and batters hit just .174 against him.

For September-October, Bowden had a microscopic ERA (0.52) and WHIP (0.92). He finished the season with 12 consecutive scoreless innings over 11 games.

"It was just a matter of being comfortable," he said. "I knew when I came up that I didn't have anything to lose, so I was able to go up there and just pitch and have fun."

Bowden didn't quit there. He went to winter ball and started seven games for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican winter league and went 3-3 with a 3.62 ERA. He said the experience benefited him in many ways.

"Absolutely," he said. "Everything. I developed a changeup down there because I really wasn't able to throw my splitter for some reason. I was throwing a curveball and a slider. I was just working on my overall repertoire and mechanics and stuff like that.

"You're always working on something. The more repetitions I can get, the better.

"I like to keep my options open. I know I can still start. I know I can throw a lot of innings. I stay healthy. I just want to pitch. Whatever they want me to do or think I'm best at, I'll do.

"I'm just keeping myself as marketable as possible because you never know what's going to happen in this game. But it was a great experience. I had a lot of fun."

Bowden worked 2 scoreless innings Saturday against the Royals, lowering his spring ERA to 2.16. He has walked two and struck out four in 8 innings. What also can work to his advantage is a funky motion that can keep hitters off balance.

"It's definitely not intentional," he said. "You should have seen me five years ago. My mechanics have always been a little bit funky. They've come a long way. They look a lot cleaner now than they did a few years ago.

"But I'm still changing stuff. My mechanics yesterday were different than they were in my previous outing. This game's always a work in progress, and I'm always trying to find a way to maximize my potential."

When the season opens, Bowden figures to be somewhere in the middle of the pen, working before setup men Shawn Camp, James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa get the ball to closer Carlos Marmol.

He's also not shying away from any pressure that might come from pitching for the hometown team.

"It's unbelievable, being able to play for the team that I grew up rooting for and being close to my family and friends and being able to see them often throughout the course of the season, which I was never able to do unless they came to visit," he said. "It's very nice.

"Everyone's super pumped, my friends and family, about me playing for the Cubs. It's a blessing to be able to play in my hometown and play in front of friends and family because if I wasn't, there would be a lot of people I wouldn't see for eight months while I'm gone. It's nice to be around the area."

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