ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Rico Garcia and Ben Bowden have been tearing through the minors, with both of them earning a promotion fo Albuquerque in June after spending only the first half in Hartford. Both of them also spent last year in Lancaster, with Garcia being promoted to Hartford in July after posting a 3.38 ERA with the JetHawks. Since they have been on similar paths, they’ve really become close friends. Ben Bowden even mentioned that they’re road roommates and having someone to go through this experience together with has been helpful.
They both recalled the day they got promoted, and both had different feelings towards the news.
“You know, it was a great feeling,” Garcia said, “The coach, he sat us down. It was at the end of the first half for the Eastern League and he sat everyone down and just congratulated us on a great first half and then he said me and, there’s gonna be two players leaving us and he said me and Bowden were going to AAA so, just that moment, you know, it was a great feeling.
“It was tough to leave those guys because they’re awesome guys,” he continued, “but being able to continue the journey is a great feeling.”
Bowden felt a little differently about that day. It’s not that he wasn’t excited, but there were a lot of other things going through his mind as well.
“It was kinda mixed emotions,” he said, “We had just lost, it was the end of the first half and we found out we didn’t win the first half, so that was frustrating.
“And also one of our teammates retired on that day too,” he continued, “but before that me and Rico found out we were going up the same day and, it was exciting, but it was tough having the other stuff happen. But we, me and Rico, were happy and excited to have travel partners to come over here so it was good.”
Both had clear goals for the beginning of the year in Hartford, after both being first-time non-roster invites to Spring Training.
Bowden said his goal was to, “just pitch well. Get better, and then whatever happens after that, it’ll take care of itself if they want to book me up or whatever. They obviously did, so it worked out well.”
In Hartford, Bowden posted a 1.05 ERA in 25 ⅔ innings with the Yard Goats. That is ranked second behind Phillip Diehl, who posted a 0.00 ERA in 13 ⅓ innings in Hartford. Diehl is also now with the Isotopes. Garcia’s 1.85 ERA in 68 innings ranked sixth on the Yard Goats overall, but first among starting pitchers.
Rico said his goal to start the year was, “to make it to the big leagues; just taking it step by step and continuing the process.
“I can’t really jump anywhere and jump to conclusions,” he continued, “but, I still have a lot of things to work on. As you can see, Triple-A has been a different experience but it’s coming by day by day.”
Thus far in Triple-A, Garcia has started six games and owns an unsightly 8.64 ERA. In his first start, he pitched five innings of one run ball in Reno. Since then, the only other time he’s given up fewer than three earned runs was on July 6, when he pitched 1 ⅓ innings before the game was postponed. He talked about the differences he noticed between Triple-A and Double-A.
“The hitters are better, they’ll hit mistakes much further,” he said. “Just being able to make the right pitch calls, pitch selections, especially executing pitches, that’s the biggest thing for me right now, and when we execute the pitches, the results come.”
On top of being promoted to Triple-A with his friend, Bowden also had another big achievement this year — being selected to represent the Rockies at the All-Star Futures Game on July 9.
“The experience was good. Being around all those guys was really cool and we got treated really nicely,” he recalled, “Obviously the game didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but that’s baseball — it happens. Coming in late in games, it’s either you get the job done and people say ‘good job’ or you’re the bad guy for the day.”
Prior to that game, Bowden had converted 20 saves in 20 tries in Hartford and had only given up three runs total in 31 games between Hartford and Albuquerque. That all changed in the Futures Game when he gave up a game-tying two-run homer to Rangers prospect Sam Huff. He gave up a walk prior and two more hits after. However, he isn’t letting that get him down.
“I think it was good. It kinda lit a fire under me a little bit,” he mentioned, “It was the first time I had really failed this year and having that experience on a big stage like that, I think it’s only going to help me in the long run.” Since then, Bowden has appeared four times for an inning each (1 ⅓ on July 20) and has only given up one earned run.
Bowden said that his big takeaway from this year as a whole was, “[I] gotta get better at executing pitches than at the lower levels. Can’t just blow fastballs by these guys anymore. That’s been the biggest thing. Figuring out how to execute my off speed pitches and getting into fastball counts and stuff like that. Just figuring out how to get guys out through not just throwing my fastball.”
Bowden and Garcia also discussed some goals they have to finish out this season. Garcia said, “ultimately the goal is to get to Denver, but I have to take care of things here first and see how things play out.”
Bowden said his big goal was “staying healthy, try and pitch well, and whatever happens happens. Just trying to go out there, throw strikes, get people out and I’m not too worried about whatever they want to do is what I’ll do.”
There’s about a month left in the minor league season, so hopefully he’s able to take care of things in Albuquerque and push to make that big league roster soon. Neither Garcia nor Bowden are on the 40-man roster, so in order for them to debut in September when rosters expand, they’d need to be added to the roster first. These two young pitchers have had incredible rises through the minors. Even though they’ve both hit a bit of a speed bump in Albuquerque, it wouldn’t be completely surprising to see at least one of them up with the big league club later this year. They’ve been on similar paths since the beginning, so the next step would be to continue to the majors together — and maybe even continue being road roommates.