PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Until Monday night, left-hander Henry Owens and catcher Blake Swihart formed arguably the Eastern League’s top battery while playing for the Portland Sea Dogs.
Now they have morphed into what Boston hopes will be the top battery for the Pawtucket Red Sox – and eventually Boston.
Owens was promoted to the PawSox last Friday and Swihart joined him Monday, each making a Triple-A debut against the Columbus Clippers.
To say Owens was impressive would be an understatement.
The 22-year-old tossed 62/3 innings of two-hit, scoreless ball with three walks and nine strikeouts, two shy of his career high, including the first four Clippers he faced.
And of those nine strikeouts, four third strikes were pitches the Clippers waved at as opposed to taking a good hack.
In all, Owens threw 70 of 100 pitches for strikes in a 5-0 victory, with Bryce Brentz and Derrik Gibson belting solo home runs.
Owens topped out at 94 on McCoy Stadium’s radar gun and allowed only two Clippers to advance to scoring position.
“He definitely had the pitch mix, including a fastball with late life,” Manager Kevin Boles said. “I think there’s some deception. It looks like it’s a sneaky change-up. It was above average.
“(Columbus) has a lot of weapons but I thought Henry was unpredictable the whole time. They never really got into a groove. It was a credit to him and Swihart behind the plate. I thought the energy and tempo of the game were impressive.”
Owens pitched 51/3 innings of hitless ball until Francisco Lindo beat out an infield hit in the sixth.
The fact Owens was using his repertoire against Triple-A instead of Double-A batters didn’t faze him.
“I wasn’t too curious,” Owens said. “I talked to a lot of guys who’ve come up here. They said just stick with your approach. Stick with your game. You’re still throwing 60 feet, 6 inches away. I kept with it.
“I walked three guys. There were a couple of nice battles. One change-up got away from me and I hit a guy, but other than that I felt like I had good command of my fastball. I could put it in and out and low in the zone, as well as up in the zone when I needed to.”
When Boles replaced Owens with John Ely in the sixth, Owens was greeted with a standing ovation from the 8,161 fans at McCoy.
“He’s very poised,” Boles said. “The guys love being around him. He lights up the clubhouse. But the game makeup is a plus. He’s not afraid to throw any pitch at any time. He was able to throw some left-on-left change-ups.
“There isn’t any fear of contact. That mound presence, poise and game makeup is a plus for him.”
Swihart, who left Portland with a .300 average, was 0 for 3. But the fact he caught Owens again made it an easier night for Swihart than it might have been otherwise.
“We’re really comfortable together,” Swihart said. “The transition was great.
“He’s loose in the clubhouse but is a big-time competitor on the mound. He’s not afraid of anybody.”
“I don’t think we missed a beat out there tonight,” Owens said. “I disagreed with him once and ended up walking a guy, so I should have listened to him.”