Sowers' quirks work in his favor
Left-hander learns quickly on his way up Major League ladder
Sowers believes he knows what helped him most in 2006. Not his success, but his shortcomings. He certainly took great satisfaction in logging consecutive complete-game shutouts against the Twins and Mariners, but he didn't really learn much from those outings. Rather, he turns to a July 8 start against the Orioles, in which he surrendered seven earned runs and was knocked out of the game after just 3 2/3 innings of work. "I felt very embarrassed I couldn't get out of the fourth inning," he said. "But I think that made me better. I look back on the stuff that happened when I was pitching bad, and I learned more from that than pitching shutouts." That, in Byrd's estimation, is the sign of a pitcher who is going places. "His first two weeks in the big leagues were more important than the last two," Byrd said. "The reason I say that is because he struggled the first two weeks, and he handled it very well. That was important to see. He didn't look like a deer in the headlights when he got hit around. His poise and approach was just phenomenal." Sowers isn't looking to change his approach as he enters his first full season in the Majors. "There's a comfort factor in knowing what to expect and knowing the guys around you personally," he said. "But I'm doing the same thing I've done the last couple years, in terms of preparing as a starter to be ready. The process is the same." This offseason, Sowers and his fiancée, Ashley, went through the process of becoming pet owners. They had hoped to get a puggle -- a crossbreed of a pug and a beagle -- but eventually settled for the lower-maintenance cat option. When he told his interviewer he named his cat Tum Tum, Sowers knew what was coming. "Please tell me you get the reference," he said. He was met with a blank stare. "Only, like, two people have gotten it," Sowers said with a shrug. "Otherwise, it just sounds like a girly cat name." Yes, much to his dismay, references to "3 Ninjas" have not yet found their way into the mainstream lexicon. But Sowers can take solace in the fact that, on the field, he's making a fine and memorable name for himself.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.