For the Colorado Rockies, entering the season, one of their main weaknesses was their bullpen. After all, it had struggled for all of 2020 and most of 2019. It also was a big letdown in 2018 as well.
But also, heading into 2021, the Rockies were unsure if they would have a left-handed reliever in the bullpen, despite having a nine-man bullpen. However, to start the season, the Rockies decided to carry left-handed reliever Ben Bowden on the Opening Day roster.
It was a dream for him for a long time, as it is most players but he was one of roughly 23,000 people in history to make it come true (if you include the Negro Leagues, which MLB does include now).
One month later, fellow left-handed reliever Lucas Gilbreath got the call up to the major leagues as he made his debut on May 1 in Arizona.
Since then, Bowden and Gilbreath have been primarily trading off on who’s on the roster. Bowden was injured for a short period and was back in Albuquerque and Gilbreath has been sent back to Albuquerque many times already too since he has been the Rockies “27th man” for doubleheaders for much of the season.
But now, both Ben Bowden and Lucas Gilbreath are in the Rockies bullpen.
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This past weekend in Cincinnati, we were able to catch up with both of them for a few minutes.
Both of them have struggled in the major leagues as Bowden of 6.00 in 18 appearances and Gilbreath has an ERA of 6.97 in 11 appearances.
But both of them know what they need to do to establish themselves in the Majors.
"“I need to do a much better job of executing my pitches,” said Bowden, in an exclusive interview with Rox Pile on Saturday. “There’s too many balls that I leave over the middle of the plate. Whether (it’s) because I’m trying to overthrow or (if I’m trying to) be too fine with the location. That’s been my biggest thing: my execution of pitches. They haven’t been where I want them to be or where I need them to be to be successful because there’s not a guy in this league that can’t hit a fastball down the middle so I need to do a better job of execution of all of my pitches but, mainly, my fastball.”"
Lucas Gilbreath had a slightly different answer than his friend and fellow rookie left-handed reliever Ben Bowden.
"“I think, for me, it’s just consistency and getting more comfortable out there,” said Gilbreath in an exclusive conversation with Rox Pile on Saturday. “I think every time, I’m out there, I get more and more comfortable and working through different situations, learning different things, being thrown in different spots. I think it’s all a big learning opportunity and it’s just trying to take it with a grain of salt and trying to learn as much as I can so (that) going forward, I have the tools I need to stick around here.”"
Gilbreath appeared in Friday’s game against the Reds and he inherited a bases-loaded situation with two outs with Joey Votto at the plate. Gilbreath walked both Votto and Mike Freeman, who was up after Votto before retiring Scott Heineman to end the inning.
Both he and manager Bud Black said that there was a lot for him to learn from that situation. You can hear what Gilbreath said about that, among other things as our full conversation with both Gilbreath and Ben Bowden can be heard above or wherever you get your podcasts.
Among many other things, we discuss how it was like in the COVID year of 2020, how they got called up and who was involved in that process, and how they have found Bud Black to be a big help as a manager since he is a former left-handed pitcher himself.