Rudy Owens had different plans for his 2011 season. The Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year for each of the past two years pitched so well in 2010 for the Eastern League Champions AA Altoona Curve that a stop in AAA was thought to be a formality.
But after we saw Owens in Spring Training it seemed there were still some things he needed to work on heading into the season. His refined mechanics still needed a bit of work, and to our untrained eye, he just didn’t seem smooth.
Clint Hurdle said his trophies were nice, but they wouldn’t mean much in 2011. Hurdle turned out to be a soothsayer.
But I still think that many people felt that by mid-season Owens would be with the Bucs. We crossed our fingers, but it didn’t work out that way.
Lost in the early season success of the Pirates was the struggles of one of their brightest prospects. Owens struggled in AAA. The lefty put up some numbers that were inconsistent with how well he had pitched over the past two years. Owens was shut down with an injury and his 2011 numbers tell the story. Owens’ had the lowest K% (14.4) and lowest K/9 (5.69) of his career combined with the highest WHIP and FIP of his career.
The injury made us believe that Owens wouldn’t be started back up this season, but after talking with Frank Coonelly last night there is a chance that Owens could see some action again this winter providing he is healthy.
Now that’s some good news. Owens pitched just 58 innings in 2008, 124 in 2009, and 150 in 2010, but this year he lasted just over 112. Getting some innings in winter ball will probably do wonders for Owens psychologically and can bump him closer to his 2010 innings count.
Let’s trust the injury is behind him, another starter in the wings is something the Pirates desperately need. One with the resume of Owens would be even better if he can get his velocity back and return to the confident pitcher he was in 2010.
Owens might be that darkhorse for a Pirates team that will desperately need pitching help in 2012. Don’t count him out.