New Cubs reliever Bowden hits jackpot

Michael Bowden, a Waubonsie Valley graduate, is happy to come home and play for the Cubs. John E. Sokolowski/US Presswire

CHICAGO -- Two days after he was taken off the Boston Red Sox's roster, Michael Bowden pointed his truck in the direction of the Chicago area and while driving home he dared to dream a little dream.

It was as if the Oswego, Ill., resident bought a $1 lottery ticket not really thinking he would win, but just to have a chance to go through the what-ifs. Turns out his number did come up when the Chicago Cubs team he rooted for as a boy acquired him in a trade Saturday, sending Marlon Byrd and cash to Boston.

“This past week has felt like forever,” said Bowden, who was designated by the Red Sox on April 15. “Every single day from the first day I was taken off [the Red Sox’s roster] I was waiting for a phone call. There was just the anticipation of that.”

After sitting around in Boston for two days weighing his options, Bowden called the Red Sox to let them know he was driving home. With all that time to think on the open road, thoughts of the Cubs ran through his head.

“Further in the week I started to see some articles and some speculation of Marlon Byrd going to the Red Sox,” Bowden said. “I kind of got my hopes up. Talking to my wife about it, pretending, that was exciting. Then when we got the call it was an awesome feeling.”

A fan of Ryne Sandberg growing up, Bowden said he would attend games in Wrigley Field whenever he got the chance. Now he gets to play there.

Although Bowden wouldn’t say it, anywhere other than Fenway Park was going to be a welcome change. The Red Sox brought him up to the big leagues in each of the last five seasons, counting this one, but he never got a chance to stick around very long.

Of course, new Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein played a big role in shuttling Bowden back and forth to the minor leagues in each of the last four seasons. Epstein still thought enough of the right-hander to bring him aboard with his new club.

“I have a lot of respect for them,” Bowden said of both Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. “They do a great job so it’s nice coming here to play for them. They know me well and I know them well so it’s a nice level of comfort and I’m excited to be here.”

Manager Dale Sveum plans to ease Bowden into things by using him in middle relief.

“Bowden’s a guy that throws a pretty straight fastball but it’s got finish to it where he gets swings-and-misses and popups,” Sveum said. “He’s a fly-ball pitcher, but now he’s throwing a split that I think is going to help him out a lot. He’s got a lot of depth on this new split he’s throwing. He’s got a nice slider as well. He’s a guy we’ll pencil him in the middle of our bullpen, a multiple-inning guy, very durable arm. He’s very resilient out of the bullpen and a nice asset for us.”

Ultimately, Bowden’s ability to handle those 39 big league outings over five seasons with the Red Sox, pitching in all kinds of bullpen roles, is what made him attractive to the Cubs.

“They threw me in a lot of different roles, but I’m grateful for it,” he said. “It made me a very versatile pitcher and now if you throw anything me I’m prepared to tackle that. I’m grateful for that and the opportunity over there and very excited to be here and start a career here.”