Rule 5 pick Bowman ecstatic to make Cards' roster

Rule 5 pick Bowman ecstatic to make Cards' roster

TAMPA, Fla. -- After a series of spring meetings in which he had to inform players that their time in Major League camp had ended, manager Mike Matheny welcomed a change in message on Thursday.

Before the team began its cross-state bus ride, Matheny summoned into his office 24-year-old Matt Bowman, a Rule 5 Draft pick who had spent the past several days unsure if each would be his last in the organization. Now, Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak could finally offer him a destination: St. Louis.

"I just couldn't believe it," Bowman said before the Cardinals' spring finale on Thursday. "I wouldn't say that I didn't expect to end up in the big leagues at some point … but I was a 13th-rounder, [so] I wouldn't say it was inevitable. I'm extremely happy and really happy that it was with this organization, because I like the way they do things."

An opportunity for Bowman, ranked No. 21 on the Cardinals' Top 30 Prospects list, opened on Wednesday, when it became evident that Jordan Walden would not be healthy enough to take a spot in the bullpen. Intrigued by Bowman's capability to serve as a long reliever, the Cardinals opted to make him the next man in line.

"It brings us a guy who we've already had stretched out a bit, who has always been a starter," Matheny said. "I'd say you could kind of look at him, at least at the beginning, as a [Carlos] Villanueva."

Though he typically pitched in low-leverage spots last season, Villanueva became a critical piece in the Cardinals' bullpen. Sixteen of his 35 appearances last season were at least two innings in length, and those extended outings often helped buy rest for other Cards relievers.

Keeping Bowman also gives the Cardinals more flexibility in how they can deploy Tyler Lyons, who would have fit in that long-relief role had Walden been in the 'pen.

Bowman utilized his seven spring appearances to familiarize himself with the routine of pitching in relief. During his four seasons in the Mets' system, 71 of Bowman's 85 appearances had been as a starter.

Bowman, who allowed seven earned runs over nine Grapefruit League innings, will be one of two players on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster who has not appeared in the Majors before. That reality soaked in slowly on Wednesday, as, upon leaving his manager's office, Bowman phoned his mother to share the news. He took a circuitous route back to the clubhouse, too, so that he could have a moment "to smile a little bit."

"My attitude the whole time has been to be prepared to throw whenever they ask me to," Bowman said. "And I'll stop when they take the ball away from me."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.