BRADENTON, Fla. — After back-to-back seasons in which left-hander Rudy Owens won the Pirates Minor League Pitcher-of-the-Year Award (2009, 2010), the 24-year-old had a down year in his first season at Triple-A in 2011.
Owens was expected by many to reach the majors towards the end of the 2011 season, but unfortunately things didn’t work out that way.
The left hander struggled in his first year with Triple-A Indianapolis, finishing the season on the disabled list with arm fatigue and had a 9-5 record and a 5.05 ERA over 21 starts (112.1 innings). Coming off a solid campaign with Double-A Altoona during the 2010 season, where he posted a 12-6 record with a 2.46 ERA, Owens said he has learned a lot through the struggles.
“You try to think of all the positive things that you’ve done, and just learn from your mistakes,” Owens said. “It’s just one of those things that happen, you just got to find a way to bounce back and come back harder.”
Owens worked hard over the offseason and during the Fall Instructional League to bounce back in 2012. The lefty pitching prospect went to Bradenton, Fla. to participate in Instructs and get his arm back healthy.
“I went to instructs to get healthy so I could play in the Dominican, because I was supposed to play in Santiago,” Owens said. “They shut that down because I wasn’t going to be ready to go to throw the innings they wanted me to throw. I took that experience to work on mechanics and get back to where I want to be.”
Many players in the minors get jobs in the offseason when they head back home. But this year, however, Owens said he didn’t work and credits getting into better shape with the extra time to work out.
“I definitely worked out more than I did the year before,” Owens said. “I didn’t have an off-season job, so it gave me a lot of time to take care of what I needed to take care of in the weight room and on the field. I feel a lot stronger than I did last year, and I’m ready to go.”
On Friday in the Pirates Intra-squad game at McKechnie Field, Owens tossed two innings, allowing just one hit with a strikeout in his first outing this spring.
“I felt alright,” Owens said. “My mechanics were doing good. I’m not back to where I want to be, but it’s pretty close. I feel nice and fluid out there on the mound. [Friday] I was a little up and found a way to make it work.”
Owens is scheduled to throw a side today, then make his Grapefruit League debut later this week. The lefty prospect will most likely start the season in Triple-A, just a phone call away when Pittsburgh needs him.
“Just to be ready for the year,” Owens said of his goals this spring. “Try to put myself in the best situation to help out the Pirates in the long run and just be there when they need me.”