EL notes: Owens' legend growing longer

Sea Dogs left-hander dominant during his first two starts of 2014

Henry Owens has recorded 18 strikeouts over 12 2/3 scoreless innings for the Sea Dogs. (Lynn Chadwick)

By Craig Forde / Special to MiLB.com | April 15, 2014 10:00 AM ET

If you weren't familiar with Red Sox left-handed prospect Henry Owens after his impressive first two seasons in the pros, then you most certainly know him after his first two starts of 2014.

His performances are turning into legend of late, following a six-inning, rain-shortened no-hitter on Opening Night and another 6 2/3 scoreless frames in his second start of the season for the Portland Sea Dogs.

All legends need a solid origin story, a place where folks can begin to understand the breadth of their powers, and for Owens, the No. 2 Red Sox prospect, it may all start with the hair.

A matter of routine and not superstition, as he would have you know, the growing of his blonde locks begins with the first pitch of a new year.

"The season starts, the hair grows until the season ends," said Owens. "I don't touch it. I throw it back, put my hat on and let it ride."

"He calls that his mojo or something like that," said catcher Blake Swihart, ranked as the fourth-best Red Sox prospect. "Whenever he starts a season he kind of grows it out. I've known him for four years now and that's all he's ever done."

It's easy to search elsewhere for answers when faced with gauging the true value of a pitcher who's been as hot as Owens. He has had four hitless outings of five or more innings and has allowed just 28 hits and 10 earned runs over his last 46 1/3 frames, dating back to the start of a 19 1/3 hitless innings streak at Salem last year.

"The results have been very positive," said Ben Crockett, Red Sox director of player development. "He worked really hard this offseason and that continued through Spring Training. The execution of the fastball, the usage and development of both his offspeed pitches continues to improve."

Another piece of the origin story can be found behind the plate in Swihart, who has been playing with Owens since their days on the U.S. junior national team.

Drafted just 10 picks apart by Boston in 2011, the two have worked as a battery in 28 of Owens' 50 career starts.

"He's got an unbelievable feel for all three of my pitches," said Owens, who is 17-4 with a 3.12 ERA and 170 strikeouts with Swihart behind the plate. "We always seem to be in sync right when the game starts until the finish, so I think it's been pretty beneficial so far."

That relationship makes Swihart the foremost authority on the Owens narrative, pointing not to his hair but his demeanor as the drive to his success.

"He goes out and works hard every day to improve," said Swihart. "He wants something that badly, he's going to succeed at it."

As for the hair, Owens pondered the notion of it being a source of his super powers for a moment before retorting, "I don't know, it could be."

Note: Owens made his third start of the season Monday night in Portland's 9-4 win over Binghamton. He allowed four runs, including two home runs, over five innings. His ERA now stands at 2.04.

In brief

Plucky 'Ducks: After allowing Binghamton's Cory Vaughn to swipe second base in the second game of the season, Akron backstops have nabbed all four who have since attempted a stolen base. Tony Wolters, a middle infielder-turned-catcher, is 3-for-4 in throwing out would-be base stealers.

Puttin' on the hits: The New Britain Rock Cats' pitching staff boasts the Eastern League's best strikeout-to-walk ratio at 4.05-to-1 but have allowed 10.5 hits per game in their first 10 contests. The only other team that has a higher hit rate against is the Harrisburg Senators at 10.8 per game.

Coming up Rosa: Bowie Baysox second baseman Garabez Rosa has driven in a league-high 14 runs in 10 games. Last season, the Dominican native did not get his 14th RBI until May 21.

Fast cat: Mike Crouse, an outfielder for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, has already chugged around for four triples in nine games. It is more than any Fisher Cats player had in all of 2013.

Craig Forde is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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