After dominating at Double-A Hartford, lefthanded reliever Ben Bowden was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque on June 20 and could soon join the Rockies’ bullpen.
Bowden’s arrival could be much needed, as Jake McGee was the only lefthander in Colorado’s bullpen as of mid-June, when Chris Rusin was outrighted to Albuquerque and Mike Dunn was released. Another lefthanded relief option, Harrison Musgrave was been on the 60-day injured list with a left elbow flexor strain, but he began a rehab assignment on June 24 and could be reinstated sometime this summer.
But regardless of the options around him, Bowden has been impressive in 2019. In 26 games at Hartford, the 6-foot-4 lefthander went 0-0, 1.05 and was 20-for-20 in save situations with 42 strikeouts and seven walks in 25.2 innings and an opponent average of .096. Bowden gave up three runs, all coming on a single home run in his third appearance, and then made 23 consecutive scoreless appearances.
A vastly improved changeup has propelled Bowden’s rise. It’s an 80-82 mph swing-and-miss offering that is also able to draw weak contact for Bowden, 25, whom the Rockies drafted in the second round out of Vanderbilt in 2016.
“In spring training, he had sort of the good arm action but sort of the straight change,” Rockies farm director Zach Wilson said. “Now there’s all of that, and there’s some action to the changeup, which makes it that much more of a weapon.”
Bowden sits 94-95 mph with his four-seam fastball and uses it in a way many pitchers can’t. Namely, Bowden can naturally locate it up in the zone and get swings and misses above the belt.
His slider, also a point of emphasis in spring training, has improved and now has a tighter later break.
“Every once in a while, he’d be able to rip a good one off,” Wilson said. “And now the consistency of being able to get that good one off in all sort of counts and against lefties and righties is starting to come.”
Bowden’s changeup is his go-to secondary pitch, given its notable development since spring training. But now that Bowden has found a comfortable grip and release point with his slider, it has the makings of a solid third pitch. Now it’s just a matter of doing everything correctly with more frequency.
“So if that third pitch comes like we’re suspecting that it will,” Wilson said, “and it’s starting to grow, (he has) a chance to be truly dominant three-pitch, back-of-the-bullpen type of lefthander.”
— Righthander Rico Garcia was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque after going 8-2, 1.85 in 13 starts at Double-A Hartford, where he averaged 11.5 strikeouts and just three walks per nine innings while holding opponents to a .179 average. The Rockies drafted Garcia in the 30th round out of Hawaii Pacific in 2016.
— Hartford second baseman Bret Boswell, who is a plus runner, made his first starts in center field in late June. Boswell has also started at third base, a position he began playing in 2018. Hartford first baseman Tyler Nevin made his debut in left field and is also expected to play right field.