PAWTUCKET, R.I. — At the foot of his locker in the Pawtucket Red Sox clubhouse are several pairs of baseball shoes and one pair of sandals.

They are all huge.

When tall and lanky Henry Owens steps into his cleats and walks to the mound, he needs balance, control and awareness what his body is doing.

“Let’s not forget he possesses a 6-foot-7 frame. Let’s not forget he’s got size 17 feet and what a challenge that is to harness,” Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper said.

“And let’s not forget he’s 22 years old.”

When you mention to Kipper that there is the perception that Owens is struggling mightily, he lets out a soft chuckle.

“Henry is moving in a real nice direction,” Kipper said.

Coming into this season, Owens was considered the top Boston Red Sox pitching prospect. But that isn’t how it’s played out at Triple-A Pawtucket this season.

While Eduardo Rodriguez has been promoted to Boston’s starting rotation and Brian Johnson appears next in line, Owens is working through issues in Triple-A.

You might even suggest he’s struggling, but there are positives.

Consider that Owens leads all Triple-A starters who have made at least 12 starts with the fewest allowed hits (52).

His ERA is 3.40; not great, but the most runs he’s allowed in any start is four (twice).

So what’s holding Owens back?

“It’s the walk totals,” Pawtucket Manager Kevin Boles said.

Owens does not give up many hits, but he allows almost as many walks (45), a horrific 5.3 walks per nine innings.

“The results are there, but the consistency throughout an outing isn’t,” Owens said. “Just trying to command the strike zone and it isn’t there.”

Owens could get away with a little wildness in Double-A (2.60 ERA in Portland last year) with batters less refined than in Triple-A.

“The hitters here do a better job recognizing – they could tell when I’m struggling to find the strike zone,” Owens said. “They would just put their bat on the shoulder.”

But they are doing it less often. Owens walked 25 batters in his first six starts, including two six-walk blowups. But those totals are going down. In his last two starts (six innings and 6 1/3 innings), Owens allowed a total of eight hits, three runs and three walks, striking out eight.

“The consistency is developing,” Owens said. “I can feel when I’m getting out of rhythm, and I can be conscious of it and get back into a groove.”

In other words he’s learning how to harness himself.

“He’s determined to put himself in a comfortable position on the mound, to the extent he can repeat his delivery more often,” Kipper said.

“We understand what will translate – better angle, better finish out front, better deception, better command. … In the last month or so, we’re really seeing some positive things.”

At lower levels, Owens could get away with his sneaky 89-92 mph fastball and a dynamo change-up.

Now Owens’ curveball is showing more life. He has adjusted from a slow curve (67-70 mph) to a harder one (71-76) with more spin and later break.

“The curveball has developed exponentially,” Kipper said.

And Owens added a slider at the end of spring training.

“The slider’s been a nice touch,” Owens said. “My last outing, I didn’t have a feel for my change-up or my curve, so I went to my slider more. I got strikes, finished batters.

“It was a good thing to see. If I don’t have A or B, I have C.”

Of course, A, B and C are secondary pitches that only work if Owens is hitting spots with his fastball.

Put it all together and Owens looks pretty good.

“Components of his game are improving,” Kipper said. “The challenge moving forward is getting all these things to show up on one day – and that is Day 5.”

Few doubt that Owens will be pitching every fifth day in the major leagues – at some point.


As soon as Owens’ size-17 cleats and the rest of his body move in sync pitch after pitch, throwing strike after strike.