DENVER — As Ben Bowden headed out to the mound for his MLB debut earlier this season with the Colorado Rockies, something wasn’t right.
He had his glove of course, and his hat was fixed squarely on top of his head. Bowden didn’t realize until after the game that his white jersey was buttoned all the way to the top. He hasn't worn it that way since he was in college.
“Something felt a little off,” he said.
His debut didn’t go well, as he gave up three hits and two runs in 1 1/3 innings of relief. Sure, there were mechanical things he needed to work on — his erratic fastball command had him sent back to Triple-A earlier this season. But the most pressing thing that needed to be done before his next outing was to take off the top two buttons of his jersey.
The black vest uniforms have a different button configuration, so he isn’t able to leave it open on those days. Every other day though he’s rocking the jersey unfastened at the top, with no undershirt of course.
“He likes to show off the chest hair,” said Jordan Sheffield, who has known Bowden since they were teammates at Vanderbilt.
It’s not a superstition, Bowden said. Then he thought for a moment. Yes, it is a little bit of a superstition. He’s been doing it since he was in Low-A, and it's just a part of his signature look.
“I just like it,” he said. “It makes me feel loose.”
The Ben Bowden look has been compared to what an old-fashioned Las Vegas gambler would wear, or something a character from Greece would fashion. Although he’s been doing it for years, his family didn’t notice until recently, when cameras zoomed in on him on the mound. His cousins in particular have given him grief about it.
Other teammates haven’t made a habit of copying it, but Ryan McMahon did draw comparisons to Bowden on June 13 in Cincinnati, when he didn't wear an undershirt and popped off a few buttons. That, McMahon said, had more to do with the scorching temperatures. And he, like Bowden, was thoroughly roasted by his family
"That's his look, that's his thing," McMahon said. "I was just trying to stay cool."
Jon Gray on the mend
Starting pitcher Jon Gray, who was placed on the 10-day IL on June 5 with a right flexor strain, threw 35 pitches in a bullpen session Monday. He’s scheduled to throw to hitters Wednesday. There is no timetable for his return, and he said it may require a rehab stint.
Chi Chi González will start again in Gray’s place Tuesday.