Pirates prospect Jase Bowen sinks back after offseason emergency surgery
DUNEDIN, Fla. — Jase Bowen and Hudson Head stood in the outfield of one of Pirate City’s four pitches on a sunny March morning, shaking flies during batting practice. It was just another day of minor league spring training camp.
A low, hard liner hissed at them, and Bowen instinctively dove in his direction. As Bowen stood up and dusted off his pants, Head looked at him and smiled.
“Hudson says to me, ‘You do realize what just happened, don’t you? You just dived for the first time,” recalls Bowen. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I did it.'”
An outfielder dived for a ball. Big deal? It was for Bowen, who five months earlier in the Dominican Republic had suffered an emergency appendectomy that had all but derailed his off-season training schedule.
“It was an adventure,” Bowen said. “It’s a good story to tell now, but I’m glad it’s over.”
An 11th-round draft pick in 2019, Bowen hit .220/.309/.384 last season with Low-A Bradenton. Aiming to stay on the club’s radar, he traveled to a Pirates training camp last October in the Dominican Republic.
When he got there, a shooting pain in his stomach woke Bowen up in the middle of the night. He tripped in the bathroom and passed out. When he came to, he tried to call for help but couldn’t get a good cellular connection.
“I went to a few clinics and they didn’t know what to do,” Bowen said. “Then I went to a specialist and he said, ‘You’re having surgery in 15 minutes.’ It was also my first operation, so I was terrified.
The hospital was not equipped to perform laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure that usually has a shorter recovery time. “It was open surgery with a scalpel,” Bowen said. “For three months I was not allowed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk.”
A few weeks before spring training, Bowen was finally able to run and swing a bat. “It was really painful at first,” he said. “I was really nervous until my first dive in spring training. After that, I was fine. »
Bowen, 21, started this season at Low A. “Jase was young for that level last year, so coming back this year he was ready to go,” Bradenton manager Jonathan Johnston said.
In 65 games, Bowen, who plays second base and outfield, is batting .275/.357/.428 with eight homers. He ranks second in the Florida State League in RBIs (41), is tied for fourth in total bases (101), is eighth in batting average and ninth in slugging percentage.
Chen doesn’t care about his numbers
Bradenton right-hander Po-Yu Chen, 20, signed for $1.25 million two years ago in Taiwan. At the time, FanGraphs ranked him No. 22 among international free agents.
“I had several (teams to choose from),” Chen said through an interpreter. “For me, it was just the feeling that the Pirates were pretty good and they would treat me well. That’s how I made the call.
Last year, he made a total of 10 starts, including six in the Florida Complex League, and went 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. This season, Chen’s fastball sits at around 93 mph, a few ticks faster than a year ago. It also throws a curveball, splitter, and slider.
Thursday against Dunedin (Blue Jays), Chen went 4 2/3 innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits. He is 1-6 with a 5.30 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. His strikeout rate improved slightly to 10.4 K/9.
“So for this year, I feel like I’m improving in all kinds of areas, physical and mechanical,” Chen said. “I am aware of my numbers. I don’t think my numbers are bad. Even if I’m better than last year, on the pitch, I’m not so lucky. I try to do everything I can and the rest will speak for itself.
The Marauders made two errors in the game and failed to make a few more plays on the field. This is not unusual in Low A, which is why players are rated more by their process than by raw stats.
“The mental part, I think, is more important right now,” Chen said. “Physically, you can work hard and you will be stronger. But mentally this year, especially when I can’t control what’s happening on the pitch, I need to learn how I can still work on what I need to do. It’s more important.
Triple A Indianapolis
Ji-hwan Bae has four consecutive multi-hit games, a streak in which he went 10 for 17. In June, he batted .363 – the third-highest score in Triple A this month – with two home runs, 13 RBIs and a .901 OPS. … Travis Swaggerty has the third-longest active streak on base in the International League (19 games). … Mason Martin hit his 12th home run on Sunday. He’s tied for third in the International League with 30 extra hits. Martin is batting .263/.361/.575 and his strikeout percentage is 36.8 percent, two-tenths of a point shy of his career high last year.
Right-hander Quinn Priester caused 16 misses in four innings when he left on June 25 against New Hampshire (Blue Jays). Priester allowed a total of two runs over seven innings in two Double-A starts. … Matt Gorski is tied for the lead in MiLB with 23 homers. He ranks third in all minors in slugging percentage (.657), seventh in total bases (151) and 10th in OPS (1.030). … Gorski’s 23 home runs are just two shy of Martin’s total leading the organization last season. In 2019, Martin led all Pirates farmhands with 35 homers. … The Curve finished the first half of the season ranked first in the Eastern League in batting (.252), runs (340) and doubles (129) and second in OBP (.335).
Infielder Dariel Lopez is 8-for-26 with four home runs and 10 RBIs over his last six games. He’s tied for seventh in the South Atlantic League in total goals (42) this month. … Sammy Siani is hitting .310 with 15 runs scored in June. … Jacob Gonzalez’s .341 batting average ranks fifth in MiLB.
Right-hander Sergio Umana has allowed a run in eight innings in his last four appearances (one start). Umana, 22, was signed in 2018 from Nicaragua. He is primarily a broken ball thrower and has medium speed.
Also see: Pirates prospects take big step forward from FCL in Bradenton
Florida Complex League
Right-hander Bubba Chandler allowed three hits and 13 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings in four appearances (three starts). In four games as a designated hitter, Chandler is 4 for 14 with a triple, two home runs and four RBIs. … MLB Pipeline added outfielder Shalin Polanco to its list of the Pirates’ top 30 prospects. Polanco, who is ranked No. 30, is batting .186/.300/.302 in 12 games. Polanco, 18, signed last year for $2.35 million, the Pirates’ second-highest payout for an international free agent.
Dominican Summer League
Outfielder Isaias Dipre has hit safely in each of his last five games, going 10 for 20 with three doubles, a triple, a home run, six RBIs and 1.400 OPS. He ranks second in the league in batting average (.432), fourth in OPS (1.252), fifth in OBP (.522) and sixth in slugging percentage (.730). … Outfielder/first baseman Ewry Espinal is tied for seventh in the league in walks (16) and has tied at least one in 10 of his first 12 games. … In six outings, right-handed reliever Wilbur Martinez threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings and posted a .91 WHIP. He is tied for fifth in the league with three saves.
(Top photo of Jase Bowen in spring training: Josh Lavallee/Pittsburgh Pirates)