Throughout this first season in the Major Leagues, Matt Bowman has already learned and experience a great deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. But Monday marked his first time pitching in the mile-high altitude of Colorado.
“I’ll be honest, it actually was a little different,” said Bowman, who hadn’t been expecting there to be much change. “My pitches, I depend on a lot of movement and they were doing some crazy things last night. Not the typical things–they were cutting, they weren’t sinking so that was a bit of difference for me.”
Even before taking the mound, Bowman had already experienced the difference of pitching at Coors Field.
“When I was warming up in the bullpen before going in I sort of had an ‘oh boy’ moment,” he shared. “I was like, oh this is not going to do what it normally does. I tried to pay close attention and I got two outs and struggled a little more with the pitcher than I think I normally would, but luckily, Duke came in and bailed me out.”
With every pitcher dealing with different degrees of difficulty with the altitude, there was really only one constant the veterans could offer Bowman.
“Make sure you have a grip on the ball,” he said. “They were right and unfortunately I did not find a way to get a good enough grip on the ball, but hopefully we’ll figure that out over the next two days.”
So could the high altitude and difference in movement actually provide some benefit moving forward?
“The changeup was cutting a little more than it usually does so I can use that to my advantage,” acknowledged Bowman, who planned to throw a good amount before tonight’s game to work more on his pitch reactions.
A Rule-5 draft pick this past off-season, Monday marked Bowman’s 54th appearance of the year.
“I feel pretty good,” he answered when asked how much benefit came from a three day break earlier this month. “There was a little bit of fatigue in there, I think, but also they had slotted me into a role that was a little more serious–a little more high leverage than I had gotten to come into.”
Part of that was because of his success–Matt ranks 7th amongst National League relievers with a 60.1 ground ball percentage. Part of that role also was out of necessity as Seth Maness went to the disabled list.
“I think that for me, being a rookie and new to the bullpen, I got into some habits that weren’t great,” explained Bowman. “I was trying to do too much on the mound and I think that really was my problem. I think those three or four days, obviously were good for me physically but also mentally. In a season, it’s easy to feel like the season and the pitching is right in front of your face and it’s almost too close to see what’s going on, so I think I gained a little perspective getting those three or four days. Like ‘hey, you’re really pressing’ and you just need to back off a little bit.”
Bowman has had four scoreless appearances since that break and allowed three hits in those four innings.
photo credit: Charles LeClaire, Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports