Red Sox minor league roundup: Henry Owens breaking through?; slumps of Mookie; Trey Ball's odd outing

May 30, 2014 - 7:09 am
Henry Owens has had back-to-back dominant outings before, whether consecutive starts without permitting a hit or two straight outings in which he struck out a ton of guys. But his most recent back-to-back starts were unlike any others in his career. On Friday, Owens submitted seven shutout innings with a line that starts to create a sense that he is getting closer to ready for the next level. As usual, he gave up virtually no hard contact, permitting just three hits (a double, a groundball single, an infield single). But he also threw two of every three pitches for strikes, with 66 of his 99 offerings finding the zone over the course of seven shutout innings in which he permitted two walks and five strikeouts. Thursday's effort followed a weekend game in which he likewise logged seven shutout innings while allowing four hits, walking one and striking out six and resided in the strike zone with about 68 percent of his pitches. Those two starts mark the first time in his pro career that Owens has had back-to-back outings in which he's pitched into the seventh inning, displaying not just sustained dominance but efficiency. '€œI'€™ve stuck with the same approach all year, trying to get early contact and go late in the games,'€ Owens told the Portland Press-Herald. '€œA couple of stretches it didn'€™t happen, and it'€™s happening now." Owens has struck out "just" 11 in 14 innings over his two most recent efforts, but he's also trimmed his walks to three over the two starts, and he's still been showing plenty of swing-and-miss stuff. On Thursday, he got 17 swings and misses -- 11 on his changeup and three each on his fastball and curveball. In his last four starts, he's now allowed one run in 22 innings (0.41 ERA) to lower his ERA for the year to 2.52 -- better than his 2.67 mark last year. While the Red Sox felt that Owens needed to show more in Double-A to earn a move up to Pawtucket -- increased use of the curveball, control of the running game, and yes, better command and efficiency. His last two starts may be a sign that Owens is starting to make his case to move up. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-3 LOSS VS. GWINNETT (BRAVES) (BOX) -- Rubby De La Rosa received the summons from Triple-A Pawtucket to join the Red Sox rotation while Clay Buchholz works his way back from the disabled list. De La Rosa recently took stock of how much better he's felt this year than last, and indeed, than he's felt at any point in his career. -- Shortstop Stephen Drew went 0-for-4 with a strikeout while playing all nine innings. He's now 4-for-15 with two doubles, seven strikeouts and a walk in his minor league assignment. Drew is experimenting with corrective lenses while in Pawtucket, as D.J. Bean details. -- Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 1-for-4 with a bases-loaded, three-run double. The two-bagger snapped a stretch of 18 games without an extra-base hit. Through 49 games, Cecchini has posted a solid average (.287) and OBP (.363) with virtually no power (seven doubles and a homer). -- Rehabbing right-hander Steven Wright will join the PawSox rotation with De La Rosa heading to the big leagues. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 2-1 WIN VS. NEW BRITAIN (TWINS) (BOX) -- Sean Coyle went 1-for-4 with a double, extending his hitting streak to 10 games during which he's amassed a .432/.475/.676 line. Though he's impacting the baseball frequently, it is worth noting that he's struck out five times and has yet to walk in his six games since returning from the disabled list. -- Staef fo Eikoom: Mookie Betts may have misplaced his cape. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout while playing center field on Thursday, his second straight hitless game. Over a 15-game, two-week span, he's now hitting .200/.369/.340 -- though it's worth noting that he has 13 walks and just four strikeouts during the run. The huge walk total and small strikeout total suggests that Betts may be amidst a period not unlike his start of 2013, when he had a low average but high OBP before that same pitch recognition positioned him for a dazzling run. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: POSTPONED (RAIN) AT MYRTLE BEACH (RANGERS) SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-2 LOSS VS. HICKORY (RANGERS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Trey Ball didn't make it through the first inning -- the second time in his six starts that the 2013 first-rounder has failed to get three outs -- but the decision to remove him after he'd allowed two hits and a walk while striking out a batter and recording two outs was driven by his pitch count. He had a string of very, very long first-inning at-bats (including one against Joe Jackson, a descendant of the Greenville native and infamous Black Sox great) that drove his pitch count up to 41 pitches before he could get out of the first. Of those 41 pitches, 26 (63 percent) were strikes. There were no health concerns surrounding Ball after the game. After six starts, his ERA stands at 8.55 with 13 strikeouts and 10 walks in 20 innings. -- Center fielder Manuel Margot, 19, went 2-for-4 with a pair of steals. His 16 steals (in 20 attempts) on the year are tied for third in the South Atlantic League. Margot also had an outfield assist on a throw at the plate. -- Left fielder Kendrick Perkins went 3-for-4 with a double, improving his season line to .279/.351/.426. His solid OBP has been somewhat inflated, however, by the fact that he's been hit by five pitches in 22 games. The 22-year-old has just three walks this year against 30 strikeouts.