Rudy Owens had a big start tonight for the Indianapolis Indians, throwing seven shutout innings, while allowing six hits, one walk, and striking out six, while leading Indianapolis to a 2-0 win. The start for Owens was his second straight outing with seven shutout innings. It did come against a rare lineup that was completely full of left-handed batters, which definitely gave the left-handed pitcher an advantage. Even without that advantage, the pitches from Owens looked good.
“Changeup was a big pitch for me tonight, definitely keeping them off-balance,” Owens said of his start. “I’m still working on that curve ball, trying to be more consistent with it, but I guess I can just call it a show pitch right now until I get that down. Changeup was huge for me, and definitely worked out in my favor.”
“It was a couple of big innings,” Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said. “Leadoff double in the first inning. Got out of that. And then the other one, where they had a runner at third and one out, and he got out of that. He made pitches, and I think he’s gaining a lot of confidence, so today was another big day for him.”
On the season Owens has a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings, with a 19:1 K/BB ratio. The one walk came tonight in the fifth inning. That’s a big change from last year in Triple-A, when Owens had a 5.05 ERA in 112.1 innings, with a 71:32 K/BB ratio.
“I think it’s just confidence, and definitely my mechanics,” Owens said of the changes from last year to this year.
The left-hander came down with a shoulder injury toward the end of the year. It showed up late and gradually got worse. The injury forced him to miss the final months of the 2011 season, and put a focus on his mechanics over the off-season, starting during instructs, then continuing in mini camp. He looked much better in Spring Training this year compared to his performance last year, and has carried that over in to camp.
“I think [the injury] was a blessing in disguise, just to get me back to my mechanical issues that I had,” Owens said.
The injury helped Owens to get back on track, but it wasn’t the cause for his struggles last year. The jump from Double-A to Triple-A is the toughest to make for a pitcher. Owens started getting hit around at the start of the year, and the end result was that it affected his command, something that was a big asset for him during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
“There’s some veteran hitters in this league, and he wasn’t getting a lot of swings that I’m sure he was used to getting on his pitches,” Treanor said. “I think he got hit around a little bit last year that he wasn’t used to. I think there was probably a confidence factor in there last year. But he’s pitching with a lot more confidence this year, really trusting his ability. So I think the command comes back. I think when you’re trying to miss bats, you miss the zone. And now he’s in the zone, wants them to put the ball in play, and now he’s pitching with a lot of confidence.”
A big key for Owens prior to 2011 was his ability to put the fastball anywhere he wanted it. He also had a good changeup, which is by far his best pitch. That hasn’t disappeared.
“It’s definitely my bread and butter,” Owens said of the changeup. If I didn’t have my changeup, I wouldn’t have much of a off-speed pitch right now.”
“The changeup is becoming a big pitch for him,” Treanor said. “He’s able to command that.”
Owens continues working on the curve, sharpening the pitch up. However, with his fastball command returning to 2009-2010 levels, and that command carrying over to his changeup, it’s easy to see why he’s off to a great start this year. These are the same types of performances that led to him being named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009, and again in 2010. Just like then, Owens is doing it on a good changeup, and plus fastball command.
**The two runs for Indianapolis came in the second inning. Brandon Boggs hit a triple to left-center, scoring Jordy Mercer from first base. Boggs scored when Gorkys Hernandez hit a sacrifice fly to right field.
**Owens was 86-90 MPH with his fastball tonight.
**Indianapolis only had three hits tonight, with one each from Jordy Mercer, Brandon Boggs, and Jose Morales. They drew five walks, all off of starter Chris Archer, who has dealt with some serious control issues throughout his career.
**Starling Marte went 0-for-4 tonight, and was caught looking at strike three in his first two at-bats. He made some nice catches in the outfield, although he made them look easy. Marte covers a lot of ground, and robbed at least two hits tonight playing in a very tough center field that is almost shaped like a box at the wall.