PAWTUCKET, R.I. – For the second consecutive season, left-hander Henry Owens has been rated as Boston’s No. 1 pitching prospect.
But even though Owens delivered an un-No. 1 prospect performance Wednesday night as the Syracuse Chiefs defeated the Pawtucket Red Sox, 5-1, manager Kevin Boles took the glass-is-half-full route when discussing Owens’ outing.
“I thought he pitched well tonight, overall,” said Boles. “He ran into some trouble (more on this later). He did have three walks tonight. But we saw some better signs tonight. He had some weapons he could rely on … some swing-and-miss weapons. Again, he got off to the rough start but it’s a credit to him to be able to settle back in and get command of his pitches.”
Rough start, indeed.
Even though first baseman Matt Spring committed an error in the first inning, Owens still got knocked around like a batting practice pitcher.
Among other things: Mark Minicozzi lined an RBI single to left field; Ian Stewart roped a sacrifice fly to right field; and Jason Martinson lined an RBI single to center.
By the time the carnage ended, Syracuse had scored three runs in the frame.
Owens regained a semblance of the control that’s eluded him over the next four innings as he limited the Chiefs to one hit.
“He had a good changeup,” Boles said while noting Owens’ “swing-and-miss weapons”. “Again, his fastball plays, too. But we saw an adjustment. Most of the time when he missed with his fastball, he missed high to his arm side. But he was able to get himself back into it…maybe get a breaking ball over to get extension and it helped him establish his fastball a little bit better tonight.”
Owens’ changeup was particularly effective from the second through the fifth inning. But Boles couldn’t stress enough the importance of Owens ability to establish his fastball.
“It all plays off the fastball command,” said Boles. “With his mix, the changeup is going to be more effective if he can establish his fastball. Again, I thought he had some bumps in the road early on but he was able to settle in and give us an outing.”
When Stewart led the sixth with a home run to right, Owens was removed in favor of Miguel Celestino.
Celestino didn’t fare any better against the first batter he faced, Martinson, who drilled a homer into the left-center field berm for a 5-1 lead.
Owens trudged to the dugout after having worked five innings plus one batter and with a line that included four runs (three earned) on four hits, three walks and six strikeouts.
Owens only threw 59 of 97 pitches for strikes which calculated to an unimpressive 61 percent.
“He faced a good lineup,” said Boles. “When you’ve got veteran bats like Stewart in there, he impacted the baseball three times tonight. Plus, they sped the game up a little bit. They were able to be aggressive on the base paths. I thought we did a pretty good job showing some awareness as far as controlling the running game. But they’ve got some pretty good athletes over there.”