Red Sox ’04 Champ Weighs In On MLB Debuts


Red Sox number five prospect Henry Owens is expected to make his Major League debut on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. Owens, a tall lefty, has high expectations from the Red Sox coaching staff. The 36th overall pick in the 2011 June Amateur Draft, Owens displayed signs of success at the professional level right out of the gate. The southpaw out of a California high school went 12-5 while striking out over 11.5 batters per nine in his first season as a pro. Since then, Owens has not posted a K% below 20.6% in his career. In 21 starts at Triple-A Pawtucket this season, Owens is 3-8, but owns a 3.16 ERA as well as a fantastic batting average against that sits at .189.

Three of the Red Sox’ four 2011 first-rounders have made it to the Major Leagues. That list includes names like Jackie Bradley, Jr., Mookie Betts, and Blake Swihart. On Tuesday, Owens is set to be the fourth one from that class to make it to the Majors. That all of your first round draft picks make it to the Majors is rare in itself, but not letting the nerves get to them is almost an even bigger step in their development.

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A baseball player’s journey is one that only the player can truly understand. At times it’s difficult, at other times fun. Many make it to Triple-A, many see their careers end in rookie ball well before they expected it to. Many overcome injuries and return to play, for those that don’t it’s extremely difficult to stay away from the game that you’ve loved for as long as you can remember. Many become scouts, as well as special assistants in the front office. Some choose to coach the youth in hopes that they will one day make it to the Bigs, while others lend their helping hand in professional ball as a manager. In making your Major League debut, you’ve accomplished something that millions of players across the world have striven for and failed. Making it their takes hard work, dedication, and long strenuous hours of learning the game. But in the long run, when they finally get the call up, they soon realize that it was well worth it.

When the player goes to the mound to make his debut, it is like no other feeling in the world. Don’t believe me? Well, that’s OK, just ask 2004 World Series Champion Lenny DiNardo. DiNardo, a left-handed relief pitcher, elected not to sign with Boston after he was drafted in the 10th round of the 1998 June Amateur Draft. He was then drafted by the Mets in 2001, signed, then was taken by Boston in the 2003 Rule 5 Draft. He was granted free agency in 2004 and was able to sign with any team that wanted him, that team was once again, Boston. In 22 relief appearances in 2004, DiNardo was able to post a 115 ERA+ with 21 strikeouts. Dinardo too, made his debut in Yankee Stadium. I caught up with Lenny and asked him his  about the approach pitchers use when making their debuts.

“I think what worked for me was to keep the same approach that I always used,” DiNardo stated. “The field has the same dimensions, don’t make it harder than it already is. Throw strikes, be aggressive, and pitch to contact. Changing an approach can be pretty shaky ground.”

As we’ve heard plenty of times with a young player making their debut, they must be able to control their emotions on and off the mound regardless of the in-game situation.

“As far as nerves and emotions are concerned, they will definitely be at their boiling point.” He went on. “At least for the first couple of pitches to the first hitter. After that you get into a groove. I would tell any young pitcher making his debut to use any nervous energy to complete the goal. He’ll be nervous no matter what team he’s facing.”

Of course, post game, Owens can finally relax and see what is going on around him.

“After the game he’ll be bombarded with press, his teammates will pat him on the back, he’ll get the lineup signed by the manager.” Dinardo said. “Reflection and learning is a big part of being successful in the mound, but this first start is different.”

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