When one man falters, the next man steps up. This seems to be the case with the pitching staff down in Fort Myers. When Eduardo Rodriguez went down with an injury the team started to downplay the severity. Now after a few weeks, and the date for Rodriguez to start throwing again being pushed back there is speculation that he may not be ready for Opening Day. If that were the case that would bump up the pitchers in the back half of the rotation, and could lead to a shot at Henry Owens making the Opening Day roster.
Owens was expected to push for the fifth spot in the rotation, but was more likely to be the Opening Day starter for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Owens has impressed this Spring Training, already making two starts. In his first start, against the Minnesota Twins, he pitched two innings of scoreless baseball, striking out 5 batters, walking two and giving up two hits. In his second outing, this time against the Tampa Bay Rays, Owens threw three innings of scoreless baseball, striking out one and allowing two hits while walking batters. That equates to five innings over two outings, six strikeouts, four hits, three walks and no runs.
Owens broke into the big leagues last season and started eleven games for the Red Sox, going 4-4 in those games with an ERA of 4.57 over 63 innings pitched. This season, according to Baseball Reference, Owens is expected to have a 6-5 record with a 4.15 ERA, throwing 91 innings for the Red Sox. Those numbers sound like Owens will be a fill in guy, often being called up from Pawtucket to make a spot start for the major league club before becoming a September call up.
Owens has seemed to shy away from the idea of him making the major league roster to start the season, saying "We're all expecting Eddie to be ready for the season and give us a great year. That's what we're all looking forward to. We'll just see what happens over the next couple weeks. I think I'll just play that by ear". It sounds like while Owens is enjoying the way he is pitching early in spring training, he is fully focused on Eduardo Rodriguez being healthy and starting the year down in AAA.
I think it is best for Owens to start the year in AAA, as he still has some issues with his control. He has great stuff and will be a great guy to call up for a spot start, especially as a lanky lefty with a unique throwing slot. Do you think Owens challenges for a spot in the rotation? Leave your answer in the comments section or let me know on twitter by clicking here.