From NCAA champs to debuts in same game

April 4th, 2021

DENVER -- It’s been a long time since and met as college freshmen, taking summer courses in a calendar year that saw them pitch for the 2014 NCAA champion Vanderbilt Commodores.

“It’s like, who’s the fastest snail? I don’t really know who the better student is,” Bowden said.

It was longer than either of them expected between then and Friday night, when each made their Major League debuts for the Rockies in an 11-6 loss to the Dodgers at Coors Field. Both were drafted in 2016 -- the left-handed Bowden by the Rockies in the second round, the right-handed Sheffield by the Dodgers in the first. Frequent injuries interrupted Bowden’s path. Sheffield stayed on the field but couldn’t stay in the strike zone.

But all that is gone, and it’s as if time stood still between those wide-eyed freshman days and Friday night. Both are trying to make a mark and help a team succeed.

Bowden, the lone lefty in Colorado’s ‘pen, struck out Cody Bellinger during a scoreless sixth, then gave up two runs (one earned) and committed what he called a “dumb mistake” on a throwing error in the seventh before getting lifted with one out. Sheffield, who made the team as a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Dodgers, needed just 13 pitches for a clean top of the ninth. Both spent about a half-hour after the game in front of the backstop, enjoying the moment with each other and with family members.

“I thought both guys’ stuff was their best stuff, as far as their pitch mix," said manager Bud Black. "I liked how it looked. It looked like they were comfortable in their first big league appearances, which a lot of times you don’t see. But those guys looked very confident and poised. And they performed.”

In 2017, Bowden dealt with a Spring Training hamstring injury, followed by a throwing shoulder injury and then a back injury just before he was scheduled for game action. Another back injury last year limited him to 10 innings at the Rockies’ alternate training site. The cub took him on the final road trip, but he was never activated.

Sheffield was a starter, but his spotty control led the Dodgers to make him a reliever to take advantage of his velocity. Still, the Dodgers didn’t protect him on their Major League roster this winter, so the Rockies selected him in hopes he could harness the talent.

Along the path, the two stayed in contact, usually talking life. But they had quite a bit in common. In 2018, both pitched in the Class A Advanced California League, Sheffield at Rancho Cucamonga and Bowden at Lancaster.

“We were both trying to find our way,” Bowden said. “I was coming off the rough 2017. He had trouble trying to find the strike zone. He got moved up, sent back down, and was scrambling. I went over to his house one day after the game, I went over to his house and we just hung out and talked about stuff.

“We really don’t talk a lot about baseball. We get away from that. But we’ve had our serious talks about baseball because we both have gone through similar struggles.”

Rodgers doing baseball activity
Second baseman , whose biggest chance to establish himself was delayed by a right hamstring injury sustained in Spring Training, is making progress at the team’s training center in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“He’s hitting, playing catch, and the intensity of the running has picked up over the last few days, so baseball activity is increasing,” Black said. “No timetable left, but we’re encouraged by his progress.”