Allison Sharp as Cougars Blast Dogs
By Jack Ankony, The Chicago Dogs
A 10-3 home loss to the North division’s fifth-place team may bring initial disappointment, but Wednesday night’s contest with the Kane County Cougars introduced the return of a season-altering figure on the Dogs’ roster.
Former Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox pitcher Michael Bowden made his return to the mound for the first time since June 13. A forearm injury sent Bowden to the inactive list on June 14, and a back injury extended his rehab process to over six weeks.
“Both feel great now,” Bowden said. “Hopefully I’m just going to keep getting stronger and stronger for the rest of the season.”
Before Bowden’s injury, he was one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the American Association. Across five starts, Bowden pitched to a 3-1 record with a 2.85 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 28.1 innings.
Bowden is easing his way back into things, with a goal of making a few relief appearances before regaining his role as a starter. On Wednesday, Bowden started this process with one inning of work, allowing two hits, one earned run, zero walks and one strikeout.
Bowden said he wasn’t as crisp as he would have liked, but that is to be expected after six weeks on the shelf. Overall, Bowden felt his first outing was a positive experience.
“I was throwing strikes,” Bowden said. “I felt pretty good. I was commanding everything pretty well.”
As Bowden finds his groove on the bump, he said his main focus is being able to throw the ball as hard as he can in a care-free manner. Bowden’s fastball sat in the mid-to-low 90s on Wednesday as he worked on gaining a feel for each pitch in his repertoire.
“I’m pretty close to being there, and that’s when it becomes a lot more fun,” Bowden said.
During Bowden’s time on the inactive list, the Dogs experienced significant turnover in the pitching staff. Five pitchers have moved on to MLB organizations, and the Dogs have signed eight pitchers in the month of July alone.
Throughout this time of change and adjustment, Bowden said he has done his best to answer questions and help out the younger pitchers any way possible. While Bowden wasn’t able to help the Dogs win games on the field when injured, advice from his experience in the big leagues can be invaluable to the Dogs’ new additions.
Now that Bowden is back on the mound, he is eager to join the Dogs as a heated playoff push approaches. Through 65 games of a 100-game season, the Dogs are four games back of the Milwaukee Milkmen for first place in the North division.
The top two teams from each division make the playoffs, setting up a final four-style playoff format. As the Dogs look to gain ground on the Milkmen and stave off the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, Bowden could be a key piece in the race for the division crown.
“We have a lot of guys that can play ball,” Bowden said. “It’s fun to be back.”