Recalling Bowden or Tazawa from Pawtucket to take Traber's roster spot and putting Smoltz in the bullpen seems more realistic at this point. I actually was down in Pawtucket last night talking to both of those guys, and it seems like Bowden is a more likely option
than Tazawa. Bowden lost his command in the fourth inning on Wednesday but otherwise has been on a pretty good run since skipping a start to re-evaluate in mid-July:
* July 19: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 4 BB
* July 24: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 5 K, 0 BB
* July 30: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 6 K, 0 BB
* Aug. 5: 3 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 4 K, 3 BB
Tazawa has looked sharp in both of his Triple-A starts (6 IP, 1 ER; 5 1/3 IP, 2 ER), but the idea both he and catcher Mark Wagner emphasized last night was that he's now learning to pitch, to sequence, to mix things up. He could get outs in Double-A with his fastball and curveball whenever he wanted, but he now has to learn to pitch in a way that keeps hitters guessing. It's going to be tough to get outs in the major leagues, no matter how good your stuff is, if you're still learning to sequence your pitches.
Bowden has had two exposures, however brief, to major-league hitters. If we need an emergency starter, he seems like the clear choice, while Tazawa is better suited to a September callup for long relief in a blowout (of which we seem to have too many these days). Bowden can throw strikes and pitch inside -- those skills translate well to the majors. I haven't heard much about how successful he has been in adding a slider to his repertoire. His minor league splits for 2009 show that he's still very much a flyball pitcher, but more to RHB than LHB.
2009 BF AVG BABIP WHIP W/9 K/9 HR/9 GB% LD% FB% IF/F
vs. LH 183 0.263 0.288 1.36 3.27 4.91 0.82 35.6% 22.6% 39.0% 18.9%
vs. RH 240 0.198 0.225 1.06 3.23 7.34 1.03 26.5% 16.6% 49.2% 25.2%
I wouldn't be too concerned about Tazawa needing to learn about sequencing and locating pitches if he comes up to bolster the back end of the bullpen in September. While it's definitely a valuable skill, that job can be delegated to the catcher and pitching coach.
The mere fact that Saito's arm hasn't come flying off at the elbow joint yet probably removes him from the "disappointments" list.
Truly. His lack of fastball command has been aggravating -- how many times has he walked the leadoff batter? -- but he was odds-on to be injured and out of baseball forever by mid-May.