When Should Rudy Owens Get the Call?

When should Owens get the call to the majors?

Last week Rudy Owens made his minor league debut, shortly after Ross Ohlendorf was placed on the disabled list.  Owens started off strong, pitching seven innings, and allowing one run on seven hits, with no walks and five strikeouts.  At the time, the Pirates were deciding between Jeff Karstens, Brian Burres, and Brad Lincoln to replace Ohlendorf in the rotation.  Charlie at Bucs Dugout suggested at the time that Owens should have gotten the call over Karstens, Burres, and Lincoln.

Since that time, Owens has followed up with another strong start, this time going 6.1 innings, allowing a run on three hits, with two walks and three strikeouts.  He carried a no hitter in to the sixth inning, and overcame two errors.  Also since that time, Ross Ohlendorf’s recovery time has been pushed back a month, which means it could be mid-May until he returns.

I agree with Charlie’s general idea that Owens is a better option than Karstens, Burres, and Lincoln, and I’d also like to see him in the rotation.  However, when he arrives in the rotation, I want to see him there for good.  I don’t want to see Owens called up for a few starts, only to be sent back to AAA when Ohlendorf returns.

As far as service time, we’ve already passed the point where Owens wouldn’t accumulate a full year of service time in 2011, which means the Pirates could call him up today, and have him under control through the 2017 season.  There’s also the Super Two status to consider.  If the Pirates called up Owens now, he would almost certainly be a Super Two player after the 2013 season.  Charlie points out that the rule could change this off-season, although until the rule actually does change, I wouldn’t make moves with the assumption that Super Two won’t be a factor.

Owens definitely has the performance, even if it’s only been two starts at the AAA level.  He’s passed the point where the Pirates can have him for over six years of control.  The only question for me is, how can he enter the rotation and be assured of a spot for good?

The current rotation hasn’t been the disaster that everyone predicted heading in to the season.  Charlie Morton has been a big surprise so far, and Kevin Correia is showing that his signing was a good move for the Pirates this off-season.  Paul Maholm had a bad home opener, partially due to his defense, but has been strong in his other two starts.  The two pitchers that are struggling right now are James McDonald and Ross Ohlendorf, who were the top two pitchers, statistically, from the 2010 rotation.

I think it’s a little too early to worry about McDonald, just like it would be too early to call Morton an ace.  If McDonald is still struggling a month from now, I’d be concerned.  As for Ohlendorf, I’ve been concerned about him since before his poor Spring Training performances.  His injury now creates a spot for Owens, and it’s not exactly a short term spot if he’s going to be out for another month.

A lot of things can happen between now and the middle of May.  A starter could get hurt, McDonald could continue to struggle, and/or one of the Correia/Morton/Maholm trio could reverse their early season numbers.  You could call Owens up now, and he’d stand a pretty good chance of sticking in the rotation.  Worst case scenario, Ohlendorf returns with Owens having success in the majors, and you put Ohlendorf in the bullpen to try and work his problems out from there.  That wouldn’t be a bad problem to have, since it assumes there would be no other obvious spots in the rotation in mid-May.

Whether you call Owens up right now depends on your approach to the Super Two status.  Personally, I’d rather see Brad Lincoln get the call first.  This accomplishes three things.  First, it gives Lincoln another shot at the majors.  Second, it delays the arbitration clock for Owens.  Third, and this might be the most important thing, it gives Owens more time in AAA.  He’s been great in two starts, but it’s only been two starts.  I’d like to see him pitch like this for at least a month, before moving him up to the next level.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://twitter.com/ColemanDonley Coleman Donley

    I’d pretty much agree with everything in this article. Lincoln has become a forgotten man in terms of expectations. I think he still has the potential to be a quality arm for them, and they have more to gain from finding out if that’s the case or not than by calling up Owens.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OGCKUSO5MA5VUCJHW2YSJ2K3TM Bob

    Get this guy to the show, he isn’t learning anything in AAA ball.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Weissbuch/1110860963 Jeff Weissbuch

      Tough to say that Bob you must consider the money aspect of things. Are you going to win this no. MAybe in 2014 so get him ready for that.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6EETLMCYZ754U2G7TFYJMCFPGU HankS

    Big Rudy supporter here, As much as I would like to see Rudy wearing the Pirates Jersey I would agree with you that we should wait. I think if anyone gets called up it should be Lincoln this way the Pirates can see what they got in him. I also think that after this week Jmac will go on the DL with a “Sore Shoulder” as the Pirates have done in the past. Then I feel like Kars and Lincoln can hold down the Fort. Burres should not be in anyones minds to bring up to me he is just there until the guys from AA are ready for AAA

  • Anonymous

    In June, the Pittsburgh Pirates will trade Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, and Ronny Cedeno to the Boston Red Sox for Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jed Lowrie. It’s possible. By this time, Ross Ohlendorf will still be having trouble getting back from the shoulder injury. I belive this is when Owens gets the call. In late June, the Pirates will have a rotation of Matsuzaka, Correia, Morton, McDonald, and Owens. And the lineup will get better as well. Snyder at catcher, Overbay at first, Walker at second, Alvarez at third, Lowrie at shortstop, Tabata in left, McCutchen in center, and Jones in right. Looks good. Maybe even playoffs good.

    • Anonymous

      What in the name of Matt Morris is going on around here! As much as I’d love to see the Bucs acquire Jed Lowrie, and as much as the Red Sox would love to dump Dice-K, there’s no way this deal is getting done. Matsuzaka is under contract for $10M this season and $10M next season, too rich for Bucs at this time. He also has a full no-trade clause and can only pitch effectively when starting @ 11AM. Let’s not forget that the Sox would be giving up 4 years of control with Lowrie for three guys (Maholm, Doumit, and Cedeno) who are all eligible for free agency after this season. Nice try thinking outside the box, but this deal won’t be going down.

      • Anonymous

        This deal would be nothing like the Matt Morris deal. Matsuzaka will make $10M this year and next, but its not to rich for the Pirates. Doumit will be making $5.1M and Maholm will be making $5.75M. A total of $10.85M. Matsuzaka and Lowrie together will make $10.43M. The money in the deal is a near draw. The Pirates ate $13M in the Matt Morris deal and got nothing in return. With this deal the Pirates wouldn’t lose much and possibly gain a future shortstop. I mentioned Cedeno in this deal, because Cedeno could play Lowrie’s open back-up role behind Scutaro. Plus, the Red Sox have a young prospect named Jose Iglesias coming up, and they must get rid of some of their shortstops to avoid a log-jam at short. And it’s not going to be Scutaro because he has an expensive contract. People have had no-trade clauses and have been traded before. With Matsuzaka’s career declining in Boston, I wouldn’t be surprised if he waives his no-trade clause. He might just need a change of scenery. After pitching against the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays and other DH/Power loaded American League lineups, coming to the NL Central and facing pitchers and a few weaker teams, because the NL is weaker, he could resurrect his career. Doumit would be good for the Sox. Playing C/1B/RF/DH whenever anyone needs a day off. A good bat off the bench. Maholm would be a good lefty/pitch-to-contact/5th starter. In this deal the Pirates would have to pay a little for Dice-K, but if he straightens out, he could be a huge help for the Pirates. If he doesn’t, you get average pitching for a year or two, giving time for younger players in the system to develop. Jed Lowrie is an awesome fill for a bargain price. In this deal he would almost come to Pittsburgh for free. He’s arbitration eligible for next year. He would probably make around $2M. The Pirates are paying Ronny Cedeno, the most inconsistent shortstop, $1.85M. A little to high if you ask me. Jed Lowrie would be an every day shortstop for cheap. This deal (probably) won’t happen. But its not impossible. If this trade were to happen, it would have the Pirates prove to their fans that they are willing to spend to make a little progress in Pittsburgh.

      • Anonymous

        This deal would be nothing like the Matt Morris deal. Matsuzaka will make $10M this year and next, but its not to rich for the Pirates. Doumit will be making $5.1M and Maholm will be making $5.75M. A total of $10.85M. Matsuzaka and Lowrie together will make $10.43M. The money in the deal is a near draw. The Pirates ate $13M in the Matt Morris deal and got nothing in return. With this deal the Pirates wouldn’t lose much and possibly gain a future shortstop. I mentioned Cedeno in this deal, because Cedeno could play Lowrie’s open back-up role behind Scutaro. Plus, the Red Sox have a young prospect named Jose Iglesias coming up, and they must get rid of some of their shortstops to avoid a log-jam at short. And it’s not going to be Scutaro because he has an expensive contract. People have had no-trade clauses and have been traded before. With Matsuzaka’s career declining in Boston, I wouldn’t be surprised if he waives his no-trade clause. He might just need a change of scenery. After pitching against the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays and other DH/Power loaded American League lineups, coming to the NL Central and facing pitchers and a few weaker teams, because the NL is weaker, he could resurrect his career. Doumit would be good for the Sox. Playing C/1B/RF/DH whenever anyone needs a day off. A good bat off the bench. Maholm would be a good lefty/pitch-to-contact/5th starter. In this deal the Pirates would have to pay a little for Dice-K, but if he straightens out, he could be a huge help for the Pirates. If he doesn’t, you get average pitching for a year or two, giving time for younger players in the system to develop. Jed Lowrie is an awesome fill for a bargain price. In this deal he would almost come to Pittsburgh for free. He’s arbitration eligible for next year. He would probably make around $2M. The Pirates are paying Ronny Cedeno, the most inconsistent shortstop, $1.85M. A little to high if you ask me. Jed Lowrie would be an every day shortstop for cheap. This deal (probably) won’t happen. But its not impossible. If this trade were to happen, it would have the Pirates prove to their fans that they are willing to spend to make a little progress in Pittsburgh.

      • Anonymous

        This deal would be nothing like the Matt Morris deal. Matsuzaka will make $10M this year and next, but its not to rich for the Pirates. Doumit will be making $5.1M and Maholm will be making $5.75M. A total of $10.85M. Matsuzaka and Lowrie together will make $10.43M. The money in the deal is a near draw. The Pirates ate $13M in the Matt Morris deal and got nothing in return. With this deal the Pirates wouldn’t lose much and possibly gain a future shortstop. I mentioned Cedeno in this deal, because Cedeno could play Lowrie’s open back-up role behind Scutaro. Plus, the Red Sox have a young prospect named Jose Iglesias coming up, and they must get rid of some of their shortstops to avoid a log-jam at short. And it’s not going to be Scutaro because he has an expensive contract. People have had no-trade clauses and have been traded before. With Matsuzaka’s career declining in Boston, I wouldn’t be surprised if he waives his no-trade clause. He might just need a change of scenery. After pitching against the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays and other DH/Power loaded American League lineups, coming to the NL Central and facing pitchers and a few weaker teams, because the NL is weaker, he could resurrect his career. Doumit would be good for the Sox. Playing C/1B/RF/DH whenever anyone needs a day off. A good bat off the bench. Maholm would be a good lefty/pitch-to-contact/5th starter. In this deal the Pirates would have to pay a little for Dice-K, but if he straightens out, he could be a huge help for the Pirates. If he doesn’t, you get average pitching for a year or two, giving time for younger players in the system to develop. Jed Lowrie is an awesome fill for a bargain price. In this deal he would almost come to Pittsburgh for free. He’s arbitration eligible for next year. He would probably make around $2M. The Pirates are paying Ronny Cedeno, the most inconsistent shortstop, $1.85M. A little to high if you ask me. Jed Lowrie would be an every day shortstop for cheap. This deal (probably) won’t happen. But its not impossible. If this trade were to happen, it would have the Pirates prove to their fans that they are willing to spend to make a little progress in Pittsburgh.

        • Anonymous

          ’91; whether it happens or not, thanx for the effort on this. This F/O has proven they are willing to make BIG deals, and most of the promise for our future has come from them (Morton, Tabata, Hanrahan, JMac) or the big and expensive signings in the draft. I would NOT be surprised to see the F/O pull of another stunner at trade deadline; past shockers (Bay, Nady, McLouth) indicate they WILL deal.

        • Anonymous

          tsnod91, I don’t see why the Red Sox would want any of Maholm, Doumit, or Cedeno. Maholm hasn’t looked good pitching in the NL Central for some time now, so why would the Sox want him to pitch for them in the AL Beast. Doumit is a liability at catcher and has had an injury-riddled career. As far as Cedeno goes, he is barely worth having as a backup SS. I can only see the Red Sox asking more for Lowrie than what the Bucs should give up. I don’t think these teams make good trading partners at this time.

          Now that Brandon Wood is available, I expect the Pirates to see if they can make a reasonable deal with the Angels, offer J-Rod back to Cleveland, and make Cedeno the backup SS.

          • Anonymous

            Fast forward a month, forget the SPs. The Sox C situation is still atrocious, meanwhile Ryan has been healthy, back to a passable level of defense and hitting in the .750 OPS range. Their pen is still struggling a bit and looking for stability. Lowrie is off to a nice start but Iglesias is looking good enough in AAA that he could start in 2012. Scutaro has been solid. Doumit + Hanrahan for Lowrie + Salty. I think that improves both teams and is about the only scenario I see us acquiring Lowrie.

      • Anonymous

        This deal would be nothing like the Matt Morris deal. Matsuzaka will make $10M this year and next, but its not to rich for the Pirates. Doumit will be making $5.1M and Maholm will be making $5.75M. A total of $10.85M. Matsuzaka and Lowrie together will make $10.43M. The money in the deal is a near draw. The Pirates ate $13M in the Matt Morris deal and got nothing in return. With this deal the Pirates wouldn’t lose much and possibly gain a future shortstop. I mentioned Cedeno in this deal, because Cedeno could play Lowrie’s open back-up role behind Scutaro. Plus, the Red Sox have a young prospect named Jose Iglesias coming up, and they must get rid of some of their shortstops to avoid a log-jam at short. And it’s not going to be Scutaro because he has an expensive contract. People have had no-trade clauses and have been traded before. With Matsuzaka’s career declining in Boston, I wouldn’t be surprised if he waives his no-trade clause. He might just need a change of scenery. After pitching against the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays and other DH/Power loaded American League lineups, coming to the NL Central and facing pitchers and a few weaker teams, because the NL is weaker, he could resurrect his career. Doumit would be good for the Sox. Playing C/1B/RF/DH whenever anyone needs a day off. A good bat off the bench. Maholm would be a good lefty/pitch-to-contact/5th starter. In this deal the Pirates would have to pay a little for Dice-K, but if he straightens out, he could be a huge help for the Pirates. If he doesn’t, you get average pitching for a year or two, giving time for younger players in the system to develop. Jed Lowrie is an awesome fill for a bargain price. In this deal he would almost come to Pittsburgh for free. He’s arbitration eligible for next year. He would probably make around $2M. The Pirates are paying Ronny Cedeno, the most inconsistent shortstop, $1.85M. A little to high if you ask me. Jed Lowrie would be an every day shortstop for cheap. This deal (probably) won’t happen. But its not impossible. If this trade were to happen, it would have the Pirates prove to their fans that they are willing to spend to make a little progress in Pittsburgh.

  • Anonymous

    Malhom leaving in June and Owens coming up in June seems like a reasonable scenario. As far as trading Doumit and Cedano, both have been on the block and probably still are on the block, IMO, the Pirates want something for them and don’t want to dump them even though they probably could, finding trading partners for these two seems to be a problem.
    Owens IMO will see Pittsburgh sometime this year.