Catching up with underrated Blue Jays pitcher Bowden Francis

Giving some love to Bowden Francis of the Blue Jays, who has been one of the top underrated arms on the club. He speaks on his special spikes, fatherhood and more in a chat with Jays Journal.
Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles / G Fiume/GettyImages

While things have not been perfect for the 2023 Toronto Blue Jays and its bullpen, the performances that this unit has strung together as of late has been astounding; to the point where they have the seventh-lowest ERA (3.69) in the game and sit third in BB/9 (3.05) and fifth in K/9 (9.79). It gets even better, though.

In this group of relievers, we have have All-Stars, lethal changeups, top-shelf closers and everything in between. Since June 1st, here are Blue Jays reliever's ERAs:

  • Tim Mayza - 0.44
  • Yimi García - 2.38
  • Erik Swanson - 3.81
  • Jordan Hicks - 3.09 (two teams)
  • Trevor Richards - 2.67
  • Jay Jackson - 0.00
  • Jordan Romano - 2.57
  • Bowden Francis - 2.00

One name that has not gotten enough love this season for his contributions is Bowden Francis. He, like every other reliever in this group, has been lights out whenever he takes the mound. The 6-foot-5 right-hander tends to fly under the radar because of his quiet personality and the fact that, as a rookie, he has not established his name as a household one ... yet.

Catching up with Bowden Francis of the Blue Jays

We're all the way into August now and all Francis has done is produce for the Blue Jays, in both the big leagues and minor leagues. Throughout the year, the Jays have shuffled him back and forth quite a bit, to the point where he can only be optioned and recalled one more time before he's hit his max for a single season. At that point, the Jays would have to either find someone else to send packing or DFA Francis himself. "That's definitely something I've mentioned to the team", he says in a conversation with Jays Journal. "I just told them to use the last option wisely because I love this team and I want to be around for the long run."

At this point, he's doing more than enough to warrant his staying on the big league roster. Through nine outings, he has 18 innings under his belt with 15 strikeouts and just four walks. Even down in Triple-A Buffalo, Francis threw 25 innings across seven "starts", striking out a whopping 14 batters per nine innings. "Starts" is in parentheses because the Blue Jays' plan seems to be to transition him into a multi-inning role/opener instead of traditional starter. It's worth wondering, though, is that how Francis views himself moving forward?

"No", he flat out says. "My preference is to start and that's what my goal is going to be for a long time, there's just something about leading the charge and taking the mound in the first inning. Staying in a routine where you know you're going to pitch every five days is something that I've always preferred over being a reliever. But at the end of the day, I'm just here to win and I'm here to take advantage of any opportunity I'm given by the Blue Jays".

Something to know about Francis is that through and through, he's a family man. With family taking such huge precedence surrounding this year's Blue Jays team, it's important to keep your loved ones close during trying times. For Francis, that's exactly what he does, but in a bit of a different way than others do. Next time he takes the mound, take a look at his spikes. In modern day Major League Baseball, it seems that everyone has their own set of custom spikes, but few have what Francis does.

"One day I come into the room and my son [Booker] is splatter painting on these booklets we bought for him and I remembered that I had just found this old pair of white cleats. So I thought to myself, 'why not just have him paint these for me?', and I grabbed him and picked out two colors of blue and let him have at it", Francis says. In the link above, you can see the masterpiece assembled by little Booker. Francis has his two-and-a-half year-old son with him every time he takes the mound.

Being a dad is such a major part of athlete's lives today; being able to come home to your child and turn off your mind to anything that had happened on the baseball field is critical for many, including Francis. "It's something else, man", he says, "being able to come home with no attachment to baseball is great. They don't care. They have no idea whether you gave up a home run or struck out the side. You go back and you get to be 'dad' and that holds a special place in my heart."

Things have been going Francis's way all year, both on the field and off of it. The numbers have been great and with his family's support behind him, he can do anything. To this point, he has been a criminally underrated aspect to this Blue Jays team, but his name will be a household one in no time.

He finishes with one simple note, "all I know is that I plan on being here when this team brings home that World Series ring."