Sitting behind the backstop at Field 4 of the Red Sox' minor league complex at JetBlue Park, Boston's 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball looked on during a minor league game last week, viewing a near mirror-image of himself in Henry Owens, a first-round pick in 2011.
Both are tall, left-handed pitchers with Owens standing 6-foot-7 and Ball not far behind at 6-foot-6.
Ball watched Owens with a keen eye, as Owens already reached the Double-A level in his second year in the organization. It’s the same track Ball himself would like to take.
“You watch and you learn stuff. You compare, we’re both tall and left-handed. It’s a natural comparison,” Ball said. “He’s older so it’s something to stride for where he’s at. He was in big league camp and that is something you want to achieve so just seeing him there gives you something to look forward to and work harder.”
Ball was joined by a number of other minor league players who weren’t in action that day, as well as scouts and a few Red Sox executives - including General Manager Ben Cherington. Owens, who started in major league camp this spring, finished last season with 11-6 with a 2.67 ERA, while striking out 169 hitters in 135 innings combined between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland.
At this time last year the 19-year-old Ball was beginning his senior season at New Castle High School in Indiana and is now in the warmth of Florida as a professional baseball player.
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“It’s night and day,” he said. “Everyone down here is a pro, so you have to work harder to get better everyday.”
Ball was also an outfielder until being drafted last year so now he can be fully committed to his pitching craft. The Southpaw features a fastball in the mid-90s, a changeup and now a curveball - which he didn’t start throwing until his sophomore year.
“It’s going really well. I’m working on all my pitches everyday, fastball, changeup and curve, but I’m working more on the curve because it’s a new pitch and I’m getting to know it better,” Ball said.
After being drafted No. 7 overall, Ball decided to forgo a scholarship to the University of Texas and made five starts in the Gulf Coast League before spending the fall in the instructional league.
“It benefited me a ton,” Ball said. “Getting my five starts and seeing what it was like in the GCL (Gulf Coast League), getting my starts in instructs, that is kind of a mini spring training in a way because we’re doing the same stuff. It was nice to talk to the older guys and get their experiences and learn from them.”
Having players like Owens succeeding and moving up the ladder in the organization serves as motivation for the young lefty, hoping that all eyes will be fixed on him in a year or two.
Follow Metro Boston Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84