The Red Sox brought up Henry Owens from their minor league AAA, Pawtucket team and started him against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium last night. Owens, a 23 year old, 6’6′, 220 pound, left hander was 3-8 with Pawtucket with a 3.16 ERA. Last year, he was 17-5 between Pawtucket and AA Portland with a 2.94 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 159 innings pitched.
In the eight games this year in which Owens took the loss, the Pawsox got shut out three times, scored one run four times and two runs once for a total of six runs in eight losses for Owens. In 45 innings in those eight games, he gave up a total of 20 runs for an ERA of 4.0 and the most runs he gave up in any one start was four. With a little support, his win/loss records could have been much better.
Owens started against the Yankees and appeared to have a case of the jitters in the first inning, giving up a run on two hits and a walk, before getting out of the inning. He gave up a single to Chase Headley to lead off the second and then proceeded to shut down the hot hitting Yankees for the next four innings, getting 12 batters in succession.
At the end of five innings, the Sox had come back and led the Yankees 2-1 going to the sixth. At that point, Owens had thrown 87 pitches and the Yankees had the meat of their order, Chris Young, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann coming up.
In his first big league outing, it looked like an ideal time to get the rookie out to make his first big league experience a positive one. Taking him out at that point would ensure that he couldn’t lose and he had had a great game against the first place team in the division. The last thing he needed was a bad finish to his first outing.
Instead, Farrell sent him out to start the sixth and he gave up a single to Young and a double to Rodriguez. Then, Farrell took him out and the floodgates opened and the Sox relievers gave up 12 runs as 21 Yankees batters came to the plate in the next two innings.
In his 21 starts at Pawtucket this year, Owens had averaged 95.3 pitches per game and he had already thrown 87 when the sixth inning started. Why leave him in when it was obvious he would be over 100 before the inning was over? Why leave him in when the bullpen had had a day off the day before and should have been ready to go? Why leave him in to face the meat of the Yankee order, for the third time? It isn’t as if the game was crucial to the Red Sox winning or losing the pennant.
There was no logical reason to send him out there in the sixth. There was every reason to take him out after five and let him savor his outing and build his confidence.
Henry Owens is obviously going to be an effective major league pitcher for many years. The Red Sox have kept him in the minors, not wanting to rush his development and hurt his future and rightly so. I have felt and predicted all along that he would help this ball club this year and expected he would be in Boston before now, particularly given the lack of effective pitching the starters have shown.
The decision to leave him in the game in those circumstances is just the latest example of bad decision making at the field and management level that has given Boston fans a last place team that can’t get out of its own way.
The Red Sox have 47 wins and 60 losses in their first 107 games. To put that into perspective, even Bobby Valentine won 53 of his first 107 games.