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Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens throws scoreless inning in All-Star Futures Game

07.13.14 at 6:10 pm ET
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MINNEAPOLIS — Hours before his start in the All-Star Futures Game, left-hander Henry Owens had a message.

“Tune in to the first pitch tonight,” Owens chuckled. “Maybe I’ll make a point.”

That point came in the form of a game-opening 70 mph curveball to Blue Jays outfield prospect Dalton Pompey. Though the pitch was a ball, Owens wanted to make a point. The left-hander is aware of suggestions that he’s primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher whose success occurs in the absence of a reliable curveball. And so that first pitch of the game was one of a number of curves he threw over the course of a scoreless inning in which he gave up an infield single, retired Pompey by a line out to left, got Francisco Lindor to bounce to Owens’ Portland teammate, Sean Coyle and punctuated his outing by getting Kennys Vargas to strike out swinging on a changeup. His fastball registered at 89-92 mph and his changeup elicited both of his swings and misses among his 19 pitches (12 strikes).

But the willingness to use a curve had a little bit of an edge for the Red Sox‘ top pitching prospect.

“My curveball, I’ve always believed in. I don’t know if someone else didn’t. I get it — I throw a lot of change ups — but my curveball, I’m kind of overusing it in my starts now, trying to prove a point,” Owens explained before his outing. “I’ve used it a lot more [in 2014]. It’s developed. I’ve gotten a greater feel. Even the four days in between, I’m throwing it more playing catch, throwing it more in the bullpens and it’s really helped me out so far. … [The point he's making is for] anyone who doesn’t think I have one. Anyone who just thinks I have a changeup and a fastball.”

Owens’ curve was the last addition to his arsenal when he was growing up.

“My dad didn’t let me throw it until I was a sophomore in high school,” he recalled. “In Little League, I was changeup, fastball, knuckleball. I wasn’t allowed to throw a curveball so I told my dad you better let me throw a knuckleball just for fun.”

Though known as one of the more light-hearted players in the Red Sox system when not on the mound, Owens has now moved well beyond the “just for fun” stage of his career. His dominance this year in Double-A — he is 12-3 with a 2.21 ERA, 111 strikeouts and 40 walks in 105 2/3 innings while holding opponents to a .183 average — suggests that his big league future is coming closer into view, a notion further reinforced by his presence in the Futures Game.

“I know most of us know that we’re going to get our opportunity. I’m very excited for when that’s going to happen, but I’m not ever going to put a timetable on anything,” said Owens.

That said, at a time when there is a conversation about whether the Red Sox have a top-of-the-rotation heir apparent — both short- and long-term — should Jon Lester depart in free agency, Owens does not shy from embracing the idea that he could emerge as that presence.

“Absolutely. If I didn’t have that confidence, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t be pitching every day and coming to the ball field, trying to get better,” said Owens. “But at the same time, no one knows. I’ve never pitched in the big leagues. Lester’s been a veteran for how many years now? And he’s been an ace for how many years now? He’s great. It’s fun to watch him play. I have a hunch the Red Sox are going to do the right thing and keep him latched on. He deserves to retire a Red Sox.”

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