BOSTON -- Michael Bowden has had his share of chances with the Red Sox over the past few seasons, but Major League batters had knocked him around at a .323 clip or better each year.
Bowden had enough of that after the 2010 season. He ditched the curveball this year and added a cutter, a pitch he learned in winter ball and has yet to perfect. But the right-hander, who relies heavily on a mid-90s fastball with little movement, wasn't getting it done in the big leagues, despite having continued success with Triple-A Pawtucket.
The cutter -- which he throws the same way as the fastball, simply turning his grip a little bit -- has given the 24-year-old much more success. He struck out a career-high five batters over 2 2/3 innings in Friday night's 10-0 loss to the Rangers, lowering his ERA to 2.31 in 11 2/3 innings with the Red Sox this season.
"His velocity is starting to creep up there more a little more consistently," said manager Terry Francona.
Bowden's fastball has averaged 92.6 mph this season, the highest of his career.
"He's an interesting guy," said Francona. "He's a guy that's come through the Minor Leagues with pretty stellar numbers at times. For various reasons, he hasn't gotten the shot maybe he would have with other teams. But he's an interesting guy."
Now a full-time reliever after splitting time between the rotation and bullpen the last few years, Bowden lit up Triple-A hitters this season, posting 10.4 strikeouts/nine innings, the highest since his first season of rookie ball in 2005. He held righties in Triple-A to a .121 batting average (15-for-124).
"It's not something I try to do," Bowden said about his increase in strikeouts. "It's nice when it happens. I think that goes along with just throwing the ball more confidently. I have confidence in all my pitches in any count, where in the past, I didn't really do that."
Bowden has always felt he could get Major League hitters out.
"It was just a matter of being able to show that over a period of time," he said. "I feel like I'm a lot different this year. Once you're up here a little while, you start getting more and more comfortable, so you start going out there with a better, more comfortable approach and just pitch your game."
Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.