Michael Bowden kicking off ’09 in Boston
|01.08.09 at 12:47 pm ET|
A year ago at this time, Michael Bowden was interrupting his winter in the Pensacola, Fla., outpost of Athletes’ Performance to come to Boston as part of the Red Sox‘ Rookie Development program. The experience proved a useful one, as Bowden enjoyed a brief summons to the majors in late August. The Chicago-area native made his big-league debut against the White Sox, claiming a win on August 30 with a solid five-inning, two-run effort that was witnessed by most of his hometown compatriots.
This weekend, Bowden will return to town to take part in “New Stars for Young Stars,” a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund. Bowden and several other Red Sox young players and prospects–including pitcher Justin Masterson, outfielder Chris Carter, catcher George Kottaras, first baseman Lars Anderson, pitcher Daniel Bard, outfielders Josh Reddick and Jason Place and pitcher Richie Lentz–are scheduled to take part in the event this Saturday, January 10, from 11:30am-1:30pm at Jillian’s.
The event is unusual, in that it affords fans not only a chance to get autographs from players but also to mingle with them in an informal setting while enjoying food and bowling contests. Its appeal was so far-reaching that Bowden–though otherwise not scheduled to come to Boston–is taking a brief break from his Athletes’ Performance schedule to attend.
“I’m coming in specifically for that event. I had a blast last year. It was just as much fun for me as it was for everyone to attend it,” said Bowden. “Last year was my first year doing the Jimmy Fund event. Looking back on it, it was an amazing time. It was packed with people. We were bowling, eating and just hanging out. It’s a pleasure doing it, and I enjoy every minute of doing it.”
Bowden took a few moments this morning to reflect on the 2008 season, discuss an offseason in which he’s been in the middle of trade rumors while working out at Athletes’ Performance, and his expectations for his 2009 role as a member of the Red Sox.
Q. You’ve been described by some in the organization as someone who has to be kicked out of the weight room in between starts. What do you see as the value of that commitment?
Knock on wood, I haven’t had very many injuries’a few tweaks here and there, but nothing that’s kept me out of the rotation. That’s been a big part of it. I believe that I’ve been strong throughout the year. My longevity and my consistency to stay strong throughout a 150-game season is a big part of it, too.
Q. Have you had much interaction with Manny Ramirez at Athletes’ Performance?
He got there before me. I talked to him a little bit here and there. He seems like a good guy. I can’t say anything bad about him.
Q. Last year, he was talking about his desire to play as long as Julio Franco. Anything like that this year?
The only thing I’ve heard this offseason is that if he didn’t get signed, he was thinking about retiring. I don’t know if (the Julio Franco chatter) was a gimmick or what.
Q. After a year in which you reached the majors, and now that you’re preparing to compete through through September and perhaps even October, hos is this offseason different from previous ones?
Going into spring training, I’ll be one of the guys competing for a spot in the starting rotation. In the previous years, that hasn’t really been the case. No matter how well I did in spring training, they kind of had a plan for me. I think I’m at that point in my career where, if I do well in spring training and make a good impression, I’ll actually have a chance at competing for that fifth spot in the rotation. I’m really taking that to heart.
Q. How often do you think about the possibility of being in a major-league rotation?
I use that to my advantage. I don’t let it bother me. I help it let me work harder. Some days, if you don’t feel like working out, you say, ‘You know what? You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to get an edge.’ I have a chance of doing something this year. That’s what motivates me. I don’t let it get to me. It helps me out a lot.
Q. What did you take from beating the White Sox, and what kind of feedback did you get?
It was so quick, I don’t know if it has (sunk in). I got there at 4:30, and I was out of the door at whatever’10 o’clock at night. It was real short. I think the whole thing was a dream come true. It’s hard to even remember a lot of it. It was just amazing.
It was actually televised in Chicago, so everyone back at home got to watch the game. My email, my phone, everything was just going crazy from people who were watching, going to watch, wishing me congratulations. I got home this offseason and people were telling me that I beat their Sox. I grew up a Cubs fan, so it didn’t bother me.
Q. You nearly kept the White Sox out of the playoffs–they needed a play-in to get past the Twins.
I went to the play-in game (against the Twins) when I went home.
Q. What are your thoughts when you see the Sox signing other starters (Penny, likely Smoltz). Is it frustrating to see more competition?
I definitely tune that stuff out. It doesn’t bother me. They’re trying to win. They’re going to do what it takes to win. I also know that injuries are inevitable. Last year, I think they said they went through 13 starting pitchers. I don’t wish that on anybody, but it’s inevitable that someone gets hurt, and I believe I will get an opportunity and a chance. I’m fully ready to take advantage of that.
Q. You’re good friends with Clay Buchholz. Is it weird to be competing with him for the same job?
It’s weird that the guys that people think are my competition are probably my best friends in the organization. I don’t think about it that way. I’m doing this for myself. I hope they do well when they pitch and I hope that I do well when I pitch. I don’t hope that they do badly so that I get an edge. I know if I take care of my business and do my job, that success will come. I just think it’s really fun. I’m good friends with Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson, and all the other guys that have been on the same path. I wish the best for them and everything will take care of itself.
Q. This offseason, the Sox have been approached by teams asking to acquire you in a trade. Do you hear those rumors, and what do you do when you encounter them?
The only way I catch wind of them is if my friends or someone in my family brings it up. I don’t try to pay attention to anything like that. I throw it over my shoulder. It’s something I can’t control. If it happens, it happens. I would love to play in Boston. I like Boston a lot, the organization. All the people from the top to the bottom are very classy. I wouldn’t like to leave. I try not to pay attention to (rumors).
ABOUT THE NEW STARS FOR YOUNG STARS EVENT
Tickets are $150, which includes an autograph from each player and a buffet lunch. All ticket holders can bring one guest, but only one set of autographs will be allowed. The event will include a sports memorabilia sale, an opportunity drawing, silent auction, and bowling contests to help strike out cancer.
New Stars for Young Stars IV is hosted by the Jimmy Fund Council of Greater Boston and has quickly become a winning event, already having raised nearly $90,000 since its inception in 2005. For more information and to buy tickets go to www.jimmyfund.org/new-stars or call 1-800-52-JIMMY.
Bowden Paves His Path to Success – By Alex Speier
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