Ready or not, here he comes.
Red Sox pitching prospect Henry Owens will make his major league debut Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium against the Yankees. With Rick Porcello going on the disabled list, the Red Sox needed a starter for Saturday and they will turn to the 23-year-old lefty. He will become the third left-hander who started the year with Pawtucket to make his major league debut this season.
“Well, one we wanted to insert another starter and not move guys up. We wanted to provide an extra day of rest, so Tuesday is Henry’s day,” manager John Farrell said. “It’s going to be probably the biggest stage he’s going to make his debut on as schedule has it. Ideally having another left-hander going against that lineup in that ballpark. We’ll see him on Tuesday.”
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Owens was a first-round pick by the Red Sox in 2011 and jumped quickly through the organization, but leveled off once reaching Triple-A in July last season. The biggest issue for Owens has been the number of walks.
In April and May the 6-foot-6 left-hander had 35 walks in 54 1/3 innings. At one point in early June he had the most walks in all of baseball — both Triple-A and the majors. Recently, Owens has commanded his pitches much better as over his last two starts (12 innings) he has a total of two walks and in the month of July he has issued just eight walks in 31 2/3 innings.
“A lot more strikes, repeating his delivery,” Farrell said of what has changed for him. “I think coming out of spring training there was some work needed just commanding his body as well as the baseball and that has been the case over the last four weeks or more. In a nut shell, it’s more quality strikes throughout the entire time he’s on the mound.”
Overall, in 21 starts he is 3-8 with a 3.16 ERA. It will be interesting to see how he performs being thrown into the fire right away in Yankee Stadium against the first-place Yankees. The 6-foot-6 lefty does have a very laid-back personality, so maybe that will help take the pressure off of starting for the first time in the environment that is Yankee Stadium.
It does raise the question of are the Red Sox putting their prospects in a position to succeed in their first major league starts? Brian Johnson made his debut two weeks ago in Houston, but hadn’t pitched in 15 days and had thrown just five innings over three weeks – not ideally how you want to go into your first start in the majors.
Regardless of if it’s the best time, the Red Sox are shifting focus towards 2015 and they want to know what they have in Owens.