Bob Kipper has been with the Red Sox organization since 1999 including a brief one year stint as bullpen coach in 2002. Kipper’s main function for the last five seasons has been duty as a pitching coach – first in Portland (2010-14) and then this season at Pawtucket.
Kipper, a left-handed pitcher, was a former first round draft pick by the California Angels in 1982. Kipper started a journey through baseball and eventually finished an unremarkable eight year career with a 27-37 record and a 4.43 ERA.
Now, however, Kipper may represent one of the most significant members of the Red Sox organization as he mentors three promising prospects through the system. One, Eduardo Rodriguez, has already surfaced in Boston with a stunning and promising beginning. Two others, Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, are developing in Pawtucket under the tutelage of Kipper.
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In 2014 Portland led the Eastern League in wins and in pitching thanks to the sudden emergence of Owens, Johnson and the late season arrival of Rodriguez.
Owens (14-4, 2.60), Johnson (10-2, 1.75), Rodriguez (3-1, 0.96) and Keith Couch (8-2, 2.97) provided the cornerstone of a staff that produced a league best 3.41 ERA and a league best 1.26 WHIP. All four pitchers started 2015 at Pawtucket and to the surprise of no one Kipper followed along.
The threesome of Owens, Johnson and Rodriguez are all firmly entrenched in the top ten Red Sox prospect rankings and all three happen to be, as Kipper was, left-handed. So far the progress has been positive at Pawtucket where Owens and Johnson are among the leaders of the International League in ERA and WHIP. Johnson, in particular, has solidified his place as the next possible call-up to Boston.
Kipper’s future is inexorably tied to the performance of his young charges. Success – especially by the home-grown Owens and Johnson – would enhance Kipper’s reputation and finally be some tangible results from drafts for pitching.
Kipper’s work will continue at Pawtucket as his immediate goal will be to develop the control/location consistency that Owens needs to improve his game to the next level. Owens and Johnson may just represent a pitching future for the Red Sox that has been predicted since they were both round one draft selections.
Statistics from baseball-reference
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