Henry Owens (WEEI.com photo)

Henry Owens worried about impressing Red Sox, not Phillies

Rob Bradford
February 17, 2015 - 9:34 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The player's first major league camp is always a little unnerving, as Henry Owens can attest after going through the ritual last year. "I would say the first week was pretty surreal," Owens said. "Growing up, one of my favorite pitchers was John Lackey, watching him as a kid. Then I was eating lunch next to him and watching him throw bullpens. But halfway through camp I just wanted to get ready for the season, knowing there weren'€™t any spots. I just wanted to develop, not really competing for a spot. Now, coming into camp it'€™s a little different. I want to show them I'€™m ready." Plenty of fans wanted to believe Owens -- Baseball America's No. 40 prospect heading into the 2014 season -- was ready last spring. But he wasn't, a fact that was reinforced upon taking the mound for his first spring training game, against the Orioles. "I was looking at the lineup card before the game and thinking, '€˜Here we go,'€™" the 22-year-old remembered. "[Manny] Machado was hurt, but other than that it was all their starters. "I threw Nelson Cruz a first pitch changeup, low and away, and he rapped it, almost hitting it out to left on a line. I just looked at him and thought, '€˜This guy is hitting 40 home runs for a reason.'€™" Now, Owens is back. This time around he has matured -- both physically (with his 6-foot-6 frame tipping the scales at 220 pounds after signing out of high school at 174), and on the mound. Owens once again dominated in Double-A in 2014, going 14-4 with a 2.60 ERA with Portland. He then made six starts with Triple-A Pawtucket, finishing with a 3-1 mark and 4.03 ERA. While Owens' plus-changeup and curve, coupled with the deception that comes with unwinding his statuesque frame, would seem to be his bread and butter, the lefty actually cites fastball command as the part of his game that has taken the biggest leap over the past year. Because of his continued success -- having gone 40-16 with a 3.34 ERA in three minor league seasons -- Owens will also continue to be included in trade rumors, such as the ones currently floating about involving Phillies ace Cole Hamels. But unless he hears something from his family, the rumor mill doesn't get on the Huntington Beach resident's radar. "My family wil be like, 'Did you see that?' But I don't pay attention to any of that," noted Owens, who grew up idolizing Lackey, Randy Johnson and Barry Zito. "I'm a Red Sox right now, and I hope I'm a Red Sox for a long time."