Already one of the best and youngest pitchers in the Eastern League, the Portland Sea Dog’s Henry Owens is making his best case for a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.
The 21 year old lefthander continued his hot streak last night, turning in his best start of the year. Owens blanked the visiting Erie Seawolves over eight dominant innings. He struck out six, contributing to his Easten League leading 72 punch outs, and allowed but a pair of seeing eye singles. Portland, the Red Sox Double-A affiliate, went on to win 5-1.
The start capped off what has been an eye-popping run for Owens. He has now failed to allow a run in his last 22 2/3 innings and has given up only a single run in his last five starts. His ERA since May 8th is 0.72 and in that 37 inning span, he has allowed only 12 hits. That’s good for a H/9 of 2.9. By comparison, the all time MLB record for H/9 is 5.3, set by Nolan Ryan in 1972, and Johnny Cueto currently leads the majors with a mark of 4.7.
In addition to leading the league in strikeouts, Owens now ranks first overall among qualified starters in H/9 (5.4), second in WHIP (1.037), and fifth in ERA (2.24). He is also the sixth youngest active pitcher in the Eastern League.
What most impressed his teammates and coaches last night, though, was Owens’ command. “He commanded his fastball and got the team in swing mode,” Bob Kipper, Portland’s pitching coach told MILB.com reporters after the game. “A hitter can’t cheat on a certain pitch in a certain count when he shows he can throw any pitch in any count.”
Owens, who has struggled to control his pitches since the Red Sox took him in the supplemental round of the 2011 amateur draft, was still having accuracy issues at the beginning of his hot streak. As recently as May 19, he walked four batters and threw two wild pitches in just four innings. That was the last in a three start stretch that saw him walk 14 batters 15.2 innings. Over the southpaw’s last three starts, though, he has walked just five batters across 22 frames.
With Owens now compounding his perpetually swing and miss stuff with decent command, the Red Sox may have no choice but to promote their consensus top prospect – by the standards of MLB.com, Baseball America and ESPN.com – to Triple-A.