Sox' young arms are eager to deliver

Sox' young arms are eager to deliver
January 17, 2014, 6:30 pm
(USA Today Sports Images)

CAMBRIDGE -- Seldom have the Red Sox amassed a group of pitching prospects as deep and promising as they currently have.    

In addition to Drake Britton and Brandon Workman, who contributed out of the bullpen in the final two months of last season and again in the post-season, the Sox have a stockpile of young arms the envy of most other organizations.    

Three of the system's most advanced prospects -- Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens and Matt Barnes -- took part in the Red Sox Rookie Program, which concluded Friday.     

"Having a group of guys that we're excited about, who at least got their feet wet at the upper levels (of the minors) last year.... we feel good about it,'' said Ben Crockett, the club's director of player development. "There's a lot of work to be done with that group. But given the caliber of arms we have, I think we're excited about the progress that can be made.''    

Barnes and Ranaudo each reached Triple A Pawtucket last season. Owens, who reached Double A last year, will get to Pawtucket at some point this season. All three are putting the finishing touches on skills that, by most accounts, could see all three contribute to the big league team before the end of 2014.    

"Some of it is individual,'' said Crockett of what remains to be done in the pitchers' development. "A lot of it is either fundamental work, refinement of their pitches, refinement of their command. More from a structural standpoint, it's introducing more advanced (scouting) reports, building a rapport with the catchers they they'll be working with and just getting them to be thinking about the game in a more analytical fashion.''    

Though Barnes and Ranaudo, former college stars, are older and more advanced than Owens, there exists a level of competition among the group, with each trying to out-do the other.    

"If someone has a good outing,'' said Barnes, "I want to go out and have a good outing. It works out really well for us. We push each other in the weight room, out in the field, and when it counts the most, out on the mound in game sitiuations.    

Said Owens: "There's definitely a competitive flow. It's all in good fun and it actually brings out the best in you. You perform better that way.''    

At 6-foot-7, Owens is the tallest pitcher in the system. Some - like the Red Sox' Andrew Miller and future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson -- have had difficulty with their big frames.    

"When you've got a lot of long, moving body parts,'' said Owens, "it's hard to keep them in sync. But that (just means) in the four days in between, you've got to get on the mound and do dry drills and things like that.     

"My mechanics haven't really changed at all. I've just been focusing every off-season on getting stronger and through the season, maintaining your strength and refining your delivery and making sure you're fluid and stay on target.''