Red Sox: Henry Owens, Kyle Kendrick have been a tale of two pitchers

Mar 15, 2017; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (25) against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. The game ended in a tie 3-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 15, 2017; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (25) against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. The game ended in a tie 3-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox spring training had two diametrical pitchers – Henry Owens and Kyle Kendrick. Both have reversed their performances with Pawtucket.

What a difference spring training and the start of the regular season can make – especially when the first month of games count. In the spring, several Boston Red Sox players were attempting to either resuscitate their careers or to once again become relevant.

Two players have taken dramatic turns from the spring games to the beginning of the minor league season at Pawtucket in the Triple-A International League. The first player is a veteran returning to the baseball wars for another effort at securing a job in “The Show.”

Kyle Kendrick was a feel good story in the spring as the 32-year-old right-hander made quite an impression. Kendrick had last tossed a ball at the MLB level in 2015 for the Colorado Rockies. It wasn’t pretty. Kendrick led all National League hurlers in home runs allowed (33) and earned runs allowed (100). The Coors Field air accounted for 21 of those home runs, but Kendrick was no Walter Johnson on the road.

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Kendrick signed with Boston and registered a remarkable spring training, going 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. Kendrick tossed 33 innings with 31 strikeouts and a stingy four walks. Kendrick had a career 2.6 BB/9 so he certainly gets attention for his lack of generosity with the free pass.

The Red Sox are rich in pitching despite the health of David Price and a few other pitching question marks and Kendrick was relegated to Pawtucket to begin the season. There was some movement that Kendrick may have earned a legitimate shot with the club either as a spot starter or bullpen duty, but other options existed and off to Pawtucket – gateway to Central Falls.

What happened? So far the International League has become one extensive Coors Field. In four starts Kendrick is being lit up with a 0-3 record and 8.10 ERA. The control is still there as Kendrick has gifted only three walks in 20 innings, but he has allowed seven home runs. Kendrick is not on the 40-man roster and with the current performance a roster move is doubtful unless the entire MLB staff is exposed to Ebola.

Henry Owens is a baseball enigma as the 24-year-old lefty continues to show the occasional glimmer of why he was a first-round selection. Unfortunately, not a smudge of glimmer existed in spring training. Based on his 0-3 record and 15.95 ERA and 12 walks in just 7.1 innings, no one would have been in cardiac arrest if Owens was sent packing.

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So far at Pawtucket, Owens has reversed his spring performance and if a staff has a designated “ace” it would be Owens. Owens has two wins and a nice 1.66 ERA in 21.2 innings. The usual curse – walks – is still there as Owens has issued 12, but 16 hits allowed keeps the WHIP at a respectable 1.29.

For Kendrick the end may be near – at least for his Boston chances – as degrading performances accumulate Kendrick will eventually be released and his spot taken by a younger player with a prospect promise name tag attached. Kendrick simply needs a few starts that exceed the quality starts designation and wander into the dominate area to rebuild his interest for Boston or elsewhere.

Owens is a tease and has been since 2015. Will the positive at Pawtucket continue? The Red Sox need for the occasional spot starter will once again bring an opportunity for Owens. If history is any indicator that start – if it materializes – will be one of a series of frustrating walks and 3-1 counts. The real potential plus is if Owens continues to dazzle at Pawtucket and that increases his value as a possible trade chip.

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When camp broke my assumption was that Kendrick would surface in Boston by mid-April. It would require a roster move, but that was doable considering how the 40-man seems to have accumulated a bit of flotsam. And Owens? My assumption was after a month of excruciatingly painful walk infested performances, baseball ops would simply go “No Mas” and sent him packing.