Bowman enjoys early success, increased role

Rule 5 Draft pick credits offseason work, reflection for readiness for Majors

May 5th, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- His appearance may have seemed a side note in a walk-off win on Wednesday night, but without Matt Bowman's stabilizing relief, the Cardinals may have had a more difficult task entering the ninth.

After another jagged start by Mike Leake, Bowman was summoned to start the sixth. He breezed through that inning so efficiently that the Cardinals also gave him the seventh. Bowman retired all three batters he faced in that frame as well to secure his seventh scoreless outing in his past nine appearances.

The immediate success Bowman, a Rule 5 Draft pick, is enjoying has already prompted manager Mike Matheny to rethink the right-hander's role. Projected to serve primarily as the team's long reliever, Bowman has proved more versatile than that. His ground-ball rate of 71 percent is particularly intriguing to the Cardinals, who wonder if Bowman could eventually fill a role similar to the one Seth Maness did the past three seasons.

"It's nice that they trust me there," Bowman said of drawing more high-leverage opportunities. "I know the Cardinals like that I get ground balls, and they told me that. I'm not sure why it is, but I'm just not going to try to do things too differently."

The Cardinals are being rewarded for the chance they took in selecting Bowman with the final pick in the first round of December's Rule 5 Draft. Once Jordan Walden faded from the Opening Day picture, the Cards opted to give Bowman a chance to stick at the Major League level. Early impressions are that he belongs.

Bowman credits an offseason of reflection and reinvention for his readiness to handle Major League competition so seamlessly. After enduring a difficult 2015 season in Triple-A Las Vegas -- where he went 7-16 with a 5.53 ERA and 1.679 WHIP -- Bowman sought out some help from his former Princeton University coach over the winter.

"During the season, you can get a little caught up in something when it's this close to you, and you can't really see the big picture," Bowman said. "He had a few quick suggestions, and they were good suggestions. He re-established what my identity should be. That was very helpful for me."

The two cleaned up Bowman's mechanics and spent hours talking about pitch philosophy. Through that, Bowman got back to pitching with an aggressive mindset.

Bowman noted, too, that leaving a Mets system where he had ascended with so many hard-throwing starters and joining a Cardinals team where the staff is more diverse has reaffirmed that he can succeed without overpowering hitters.

"You watch them succeed, and you wonder if maybe you need to throw hard," Bowman said of his past teammates. "It's hard to be confident in your identity as a low-90s guy when you have [Steven] Matz and [Noah] Syndergaard throwing 95-plus as starters. It's nice to see that you can succeed and not throw extremely hard."