By Dennis Jezek
MIAMI – Former Barry University baseball player Henry Owens is coming back to Miami after being acquired along with Matt Lindstrom by the Florida Marlins from the New York Mets this winter, in one of two deals the Marlins made for bullpen help. They also traded right-handed reliever Chris Resop to the Los Angeles Angels for right-handed reliever Kevin Gregg.
“Both the trades we were involved in today addressed our bullpen needs,” Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said in a statement issued by the team. “We expect all the players acquired today to contribute to our club during the 2007 season.”
Owens (left), 27, is a Miami native who graduated from Braddock High School and attended Barry University. Signed by the Pirates as an un-drafted free agent in 2001, he was a Rule V Triple-A phase pick of the Mets in 2004, when he was ranked as the hardest thrower available in the draft.
In July, Owens made his major-league debut with the Mets, striking out the first batter he faced — Florida’s Alfredo Amezaga. In all, Owens tossed four innings in three appearances with the Mets, allowing four hits and four walks, striking out two.
Owens was eventually returned to the minors, where he ended up going 2-2 with 20 saves and a 1.58 ERA in 37 games for Double A Binghamton (N.Y.). This fall, he was named to Team USA’s 24-man roster that won the Gold Medal in the 2006 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Havana, Cuba, in September to secure the United States a spot in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. He worked 4.2 innings and had three saves in six appearances during the tourney.
Owens currently is pitching in the Dominican Republic Winter League for defending champs Tigres del Licey, where he is being used as a closer. Last winter, he pitched for Criollos de Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League, leading them in saves. His fastball was clocked as high as 102 mph.
He received word that he was traded while he was shopping in a toy store.
“Everybody seems excited I’m coming back home,” said Owens, who is leading the Dominican Republic winter league with nine saves. “I think it’s even more exciting for my family. I’m happy playing wherever the game takes me.”
Initially, Owens thought that meant he was returning to the United States, where he would head up to the Mets’ training complex in St. Lucie.
“I got a call from an assistant GM with the Mets, and he told me they were sending me home,” Owens said in a phone interview Monday night. “I’m excited to do whatever role the Marlins want to use me.”
In the Dominican, he is working on a split-finger fastball and cutter to go along with his high-90s fastball and slider.
All the pitchers the Marlins acquired had very strong strikeout-to-walk ratios. Owens fanned 74 while walking 10 in 40 innings, while Lindstrom struck out 54 to 14 walks in 58.2 innings. In 78.1 innings with the Angels, Gregg struck out 71 and walked 21.