04/16/2007 1:13 PM ET
Bowen: Bigger role, bigger challenge
Padres catchers Rob Bowen (left) and Josh Bard take a break during a Spring Training workout. (Elaine Thompson/AP)
My job as backup catcher is to make sure I'm ready to play every fourth or fifth day, or be ready to play more regularly in the event of an injury. Our regular catcher, Josh Bard, tweaked his groin last Wednesday, so I've been playing the last few days.
Josh hurt his leg sliding. As catchers, our legs are what keep us going throughout the year, so it's important for the team that Josh gets back to 100 percent. In the meantime, the biggest thing for me is to stay sharp and focused, keep my nutrition up and maintain my energy level.
With the additional playing time, I'm trying to string some good at-bats together. This extra playing time also gives me a chance to work with the full pitching staff on a day-to-day basis for a stretch. That's good experience to have and may pay off down the road.
When you go from a backup role to suddenly being the everyday catcher, I think the easier transition for me comes as a defender. When I'm backing up, I work real hard on my defense and in working with my pitchers. It's a tougher transition becoming a day-to-day hitter. You have to make more adjustments as you get more at-bats during a series.
When I'm not playing regularly, I work the most on staying on the same page as my pitchers. The other challenge I have as a switch-hitter is trying to stay sharp from both sides of the plate. I like the challenges, though.
I have a very good relationship with Josh. We work very well together. We drive together a lot, especially during the spring, and we share information back and forth. The backup and the starter need to have good communication. One of us might see something in a game that we can then share with the other. When I'm not playing, I'm still always paying attention and watching hitters. It's crucial to a team's success for catchers to be on the same page.
Throughout my time as a catcher, I've played with some great ones. Last year, of course, Mike Piazza was here. Before that, with the Twins organization, I played with Joe Mauer, Henry Blanco and A.J. Pierzynski. So, along with Josh, I've had the chance to play with some pretty good catchers who know what they're doing. It has been great to work with them and to get some knowledge from them.
As catchers, we also learn a lot from pitchers. I worked with pitchers like Johan Santana, Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins in Minnesota. Here with the Padres, one of the guys I get to catch is Greg Maddux. He has been around a long time and has more than 300 wins. He has the idea of pitching down and it is just great to learn off of that. He has broken it down into a science and there are not a lot of guys who can say that.
Rob Bowen was thrust into a starting role when regular catcher Josh Bard suffered a groin injury last week. Bowen is in his second season with San Diego after breaking in with the Twins in 2003 and playing in Minnesota for parts of two seasons. The Texas-born Bowen was named as the Indiana High School Baseball Player of the Year in 1999.