The Red Sox selected a pair of pitchers with two of their four first-round picks in the 2011 draft. Right-hander Matt Barnes was picked 19th overall, while Owens was taken with the first of two supplementary first rounders at 36. These two made their professional debuts this weekend, both at Single-A Greenville.
Owens went three innings and gave up five runs, all earned. But he also struck out seven hitters in those three frames, and walked just a pair. Two of those runs came thanks to the pitchers that followed him -- not to let him off the hook -- but the strikeouts are encouraging in his very first taste of professional pitching.
The Red Sox have a lot of faith in Owens, and that's apparent based on his first assignment. The 19-year-old isn't in short-season, Low-A Lowell to begin his career. Instead, he's starting at the same place that Anthony Ranaudo (21 years old) and Brandon Workman (22 years old), instead of where other 19-year-olds like Drake Britton began their own careers. As Alex Speier pointed out, Casey Kelly also got his start at Single-A when he was 19, but that was possibly due to the fact he was also a shortstop then, and was splitting his season between the two jobs.
Barnes is more like Ranaudo, as he'll turn 22 this June. Like Owens, he struck out plenty of batters in his debut, but unlike Owens, you don't need any caveats to appreciate his start. Barnes whiffed nine hitters over five innings, walked just a pair, and induced twice as many ground outs as outs in the air. It's difficult to do much better than that in a professional debut.
It's a bit too early to know if the Red Sox will keep being aggressive with Owens given his age and inexperience, but there's a good chance that Barnes, as a college draft pick, will be moved along as long as he stays successful.