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Ben Bowden Works To Tighten His Slider

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Ben Bowden should begin this season at Double-A Hartford, where there will be a developmental point of emphasis for the 24-year-old lefthanded reliever.

"He has a very good changeup,” farm director Zach Wilson said. "But we’re really focused on his slider and tightening that up and getting a little more depth and getting it to be a little later as opposed to an earlier break. Once that clicks, he could really take off.”

A non-roster player in his first big league camp, Bowden was drafted by the Rockies in the second round in 2016 out of Vanderbilt. He began his pro career at low Class A Asheville that year, but the following spring he suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to begin the season in extended spring training.

Ultimately, Bowden did not pitch in 2017 because of a series of injuries. On a flight to Asheville, he suffered a freak shoulder injury helping a woman put her luggage in the overhead bin. Then while throwing what was supposed to be his final bullpen session, he hurt his back. He was diagnosed with a bulging disk that required surgery.

Bowden rebounded last year, beginning at Asheville and advancing to high Class A Lancaster in mid-May. In 49 appearances he recorded a 3.98 ERA with 78 strikeouts and 20 walks in 52 innings.

"He’s got a skill that a lot of guys don’t have,” Wilson said. "He can very naturally pitch up in the zone. He can get swings and misses above the belt, and he sort of does that naturally.”

Bowden throws a four-seam fastball that ranges from 92-95 mph. He is also working on commanding the pitch better down in the zone. His slider is 82-83 mph, and his changeup is around 80 mph.

"The good thing is he does have a third pitch, where a lot of relievers these days don’t,” Wilson said. "That changeup is not an out pitch or a swing-and-miss (pitch). It’s a contact pitch, as it should be. If we can give him a real swing-and-miss breaking ball to go along with a swing-and-miss fastball—(that would be) dangerous.”

ROCKY ROADS

— Third baseman Josh Fuentes, in his first big league camp, suffered a broken left hamate bone on Feb. 18. He should be cleared to swing before the end of spring training and be ready to play in games in early-to-mid-April. The 26-year-old hit .327/.354/.517 last year at Triple-A Albuquerque with 14 homers and 95 RBIs.

— Righthander David Hill should be ready to pitch in minor league games when they begin March 14. The 2015 fourth-rounder didn’t pitch for nearly two years due to thoracic outlet syndrome and setbacks after surgery in November 2016. He returned to the mound in early June 2018 with Lancaster and made seven starts, the last on July 7, before suffering a season-ending forearm sprain.

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