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Red Sox sign left-hander Henry Owens for $1.55 million

08.16.11 at 12:13 am ET
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The Red Sox reeled in their third pick of the 2011 draft, signing high school left-hander Henry Owens away from his scholarship commitment to pitch at the University of Miami for a bonus of $1.55 million, an amount in excess of the Major League Baseball slot recommendation of $889,200. In what talent evaluators viewed as a down year for the talent coming from the baseball hotbed of Southern California, Owens — who pitched at Edison High Schol (Huntington Beach, Calif.) — was viewed as the clear-cut top talent from the region.

At the time of the draft, the Sox suggested that they projected Owens — a 6-foot-6 left-hander with advanced command and feel of his pitches whose fastball, while typically a high-80s to low-90s offering, registered as high as 94 mph — as a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter in Boston. While he throws 88-92 mph, Owens’ stringy frame leaves plenty of room for him to fill out and also leaves grounds for plenty of projection. But it is his knowledge of how to use a breaking ball, how to add to it and take velocity off, as well as his ability to generate swings and misses on his changeup, that revealed his feel for his craft.

Owens’ high school coach Steve Lambright suggested that the pitcher had uncommon command of his arsenal.

“He has a fastball, a curveball, a changeup and towards the end of the season he was working on a slider,” Lambright said. “He throws a lot of strikes and pounds the strike zone. His strike out to walk ratio was huge, 140 strikeouts to 25 walks. He also has a great pick off move. All the things he did for me added up to where Boston took him.

“The other thing besides his physical stature is his presence on the field in terms of [saying], ‘Get on my back. Guys, I am going to carry you.’ The mental makeup is there for him to do well.”

Owens was named the CAL-HI Sports Mr. Baseball California Player of the Year this past June. In his senior season he posted a 12-1 record, with three saves and a 1.15 ERA, a dominant season despite the pressure of having numerous scouts in attendance every time he took to the mound.

“There were 50 scouts one game, I kid you not,” Lambright recalled. “There were 15-30 per game, and we were in constant contact with the scouts. It was pretty hectic for him because he was who they were there for. He got better as the season went on, his velocity went up. The Boston scout we talked with the most. When Tampa passed on him I was like this will be it right here and Boston grabbed him. I was excited. It was pretty cool.”

Lambright lauded Owens for his ability to maintain a loose attitude off the field, where the 19-year-old exhibited a different personality from his all-business demeanor on the mound.

“He was the most positive player on the team,” he said. “He is very easygoing and always telling jokes. Off the field when he isn’t pitching he is always loosey-goosy and has an easy going mentality. I am amazed as a coach that he can do that. He has a good balance of life and he gets it.”

Alex Speier contributed to this report.

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