Red Sox pitching prospect Henry Owens turned 21 years old Sunday, but you probably wouldn't have known it even if you spent the day around him.
There was no cake, candles or lavish meal. The youngest pitcher on Salem's 14-man staff, Owens didn't even consider painting the town red the day before a start.
"I went in the jacuzzi and went to bed," Boston's No. 5 prospect said. "For me, it was just another day. I'm on a bus right now with a bunch of 23- and 24-year-olds, so I'm just trying to fit in. I don't want them to treat me any differently. I'm growing up right in front of their eyes."
The first-rounder is growing on the mound too.
Owens (8-4) struck out nine batters over five hitless innings Monday in the Class A Red Sox's 5-2 win over the host Potomac Nationals. He issued three walks, hit one batter and lowered his ERA to 2.78 in the victory.
Owens stranded runners on the corners in the first inning, and he walked a batter in each of the second and third frames before setting down the final eight P-Nats he faced.
"I felt pretty locked in," said Owens, who threw 51 of 90 pitches for strikes. "I'm glad we got a win, because yesterday [Potomac] came back in the ninth. It was good to get the win.
"My curveball was not there early, but I got three strikeouts with it later. I made a couple adjustments with it and was able to get it down in the zone by the fourth or fifth inning. I was using my fastball and change-up to keep them off balance. I threw [my change-up] in every situation -- behind in the count, ahead in the count, on 2-1 or with two strikes. I had a really good feel for it."
His nine strikeouts fell one shy of tying a career high, first achieved May 4 in Winston-Salem and duplicated in his most recent start in Frederick.
In 11 innings across his past two starts, the California native has struck out 19 batters and not allowed a hit. Only three balls have left the infield in that span.
In fact, the last time Owens allowed a hit was leading off the third inning of a game against Myrtle Beach on July 11. Since then, he has gone 15 2/3 frames without surrendering one.
"I can't really explain it," the 6-foot-6 southpaw said. "It's just baseball. I'm in a nice rhythm and hopefully I go again in five days.
"I'm trying to pitch to contact to go deeper into games obviously. I would sacrifice the strikeouts for another inning or two, but I'm just hitting my spots right now."
He will get another chance to pitch into the latter stages of a game Saturday at home vs. Frederick. But even though that's five days away, Owens -- selected by the Red Sox 36th overall in the 2011 Draft -- doesn't have any big belated birthday plans either.
"We're out in Potomac. ... There's a Hooters near the hotel, so we're going to head out tonight, maybe get some wings," joked Owens, ranked 77th on MLB.com's Top 100 list.
It's back to business after that. He will begin with his throwing program in between starts and culminate this weekend with his 20th start of the year. And the routine involves more than just baseball.
"I play my guitar on the bus on days when I pitch," said Owens, who got an electric pickup for his acoustic Taylor guitar from his father for his birthday. "I used to do it in school too. It's good for your brain and gets you in a good rhythm. Then I read in the clubhouse while the guys are taking batting practice."
On Monday, Madison Younginer allowed one run on one hit and two walks over two innings in relief of Owens, Nate Striz worked around a hit in the eighth and Matt Price yielded a run on a pair of hits and a walk to seal the victory in the ninth.
First baseman Tim Roberson was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and third baseman Stefan Welch homered and plated three runs in the win.