PORTLAND, Maine -- It's hard to pick up on at first glance.
There's a hitch in Michael Bowden's delivery that has him professing ignorance and his coaches lauding his deception. But with the self-taught, over-the-top motion, he started the season mowing down hitters in a pitcher's nightmare of a park in Lancaster, Calif., and continued at Portland.
"Growing up, my family never had money for pitching lessons or anything, so it was all just whatever felt natural," Bowden said Tuesday. "My first pitching coach [Bob Kipper] was last year in my first full season of baseball. I just went with whatever felt natural. It worked. It still does."
For the 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pound Bowden, drafted 47th overall in 2005, it was that unusual delivery -- one that his pitching coach, Mike Cather, said has "got a lot of funk built into it" -- and a desire to protect their young pitchers that caused the Red Sox to send him to Birmingham, Ala., for an evaluation with Dr. James Andrews during spring training in 2006. Bowden said it was determined no additional stress was being placed on his arm, and therefore no need to alter his delivery.
But Bowden knew that. Much as he knows almost everything else about his pitches, his pitching motion, his abilities. Far more than is normal for the typical 20-year-old pitcher.
Of course, the typical 20-year-old pitcher doesn't always get to Double A as quickly as Bowden, who is rated by Baseball America as the Red Sox' second-best pitching prospect, behind teammate Clay Buchholz.
"I think he kind of stepped us up a notch," Cather said. "He came up from A ball and he was the best-dressed guy. And when it's game day, he's as intense as anybody and he looks forward to that challenge. It was refreshing. We've got players that have played here before, and even played at the higher levels, and it just becomes kind of commonplace and he makes it look good.
"But what Michael lacks in experience, he makes up in composure, in stuff, in personality. That's why he's able to compete at this level. He will be challenged, but that's part of his development as well."
Using a fastball with late life that registers in the low 90s coupled with a curveball and changeup, Bowden went 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in Lancaster, though he hasn't had the same success with Portland.
"Just getting used to this level," said Bowden, who is 2-2 with a 5.48 ERA as a Sea Dog. "I'm being challenged right now. I've just got to learn from every outing. I'll take all the positives -- even if I give up the eight runs in three innings [as he did last Saturday]."
"As a 2 hitter, that's kind of my job, to get on base," Lowrie said. "When I go up there, it's to get a good pitch to hit, it's to be selective."