FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Henry Owens won’t have to wait long to make his first statement of spring training.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell announced Sunday that the 23-year-old left-hander, who has an outside chance of wresting the fifth spot in the starting rotation away from Joe Kelly, will start in Wednesday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park. Rick Porcello, trying to rebound from a disappointing debut season with the Red Sox, will start Thursday’s game against the Twins at Hammond Stadium.
Owens finished strong in his major league debut last year, throwing 16 consecutive scoreless innings from Sept. 8-22.
“What we’ve seen is more consistent shape to his curveball,” Farrell said. “He’s demonstrated mound presence and a calmness about him within the game that I think is pretty advanced for a young pitcher. So while there might not be huge strides in terms of added velocity or a different type of breaking pitch, I think this is someone who has embraced and met the major league environment fairly well.”
Farrell said that once live batting practice is over on Tuesday, he’ll map out the remainder of the week. There is a chance that new ace David Price will make his Red Sox debut Friday at JetBlue Park against his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Price played coy when asked if he has been told when he’ll make his first start.
“Ah, they have,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to be the one who lets you guys know. But yes, I am aware of when I’m throwing.”
Asked if he’s anxious to make his debut in a new uniform, he said, “I love what I do, so I definitely take a lot of pride. I don’t care if it’s spring training or throwing on a back field. It doesn’t matter to me. I play this game for the competition. I want to go out there and I want to establish myself early.”
“It’s always a work in progress, just trying to go out there and locate the fastball,” he said. “I mixed in a couple of cutters and a couple of sliders today, so it’s progressing well.”
Other takeaways from Sunday:
* David Ortiz and Castillo will not play in either game of Monday’s doubleheader against Boston College and Northeastern. All the other regulars are playing against BC, with Hanley Ramirez making his much-anticipated debut at first base.
The pitchers facing BC: Steven Wright, Matt Barnes, Williams Jerez, Pat Light and Roman Mendez. The pitchers facing Northeastern: Sean O'Sullivan, William Cuevas, Heath Hembree, Kyle Martin and Danny Rosenbaum.
* Koji Uehara's first appearance will be March 9, most likely in a minor-league or simulated game.
* Kelly will throw his first live BP on Tuesday. His schedule is behind the rest of the pitchers because of the time he missed to be in California for the birth of his son, Knox.
* Farrell said new closer Craig Kimbrel will enter Grapefruit League games in the fourth or fifth inning so that he can face major-leaguers before they exit the game. During the last 10 days of the spring, he will be used in a typical closer role. They are also aiming to give him back-to-back outings at least once.
* Farrell said the team is emphasizing to Xander Bogaerts to stick with what made him successful last year -- when he was second in the American League with a .320 batting average after hitting .240 in 2014 -- and not be tempted to increase his power numbers. Bogaerts hit five fewer homers in 75 more at-bats in 2015.
“He hit for a high average last year... and so much has been made about the power,” Farrell said. “You know what? That will come in due time. But we’d love for him to have a repeat year offensively as he did last year. He had an outstanding year for us last year.”
* The crowd was much smaller Sunday -- one day after hundreds of fans came for practice and Open House at JetBlue Park -- but no less enthusiastic.
On Field 3, a large gathering watched Ortiz launch two straight shots over the batting cages beyond the right-field fence.
“Keep hitting those bombs, Papi!” one fan yelled.
“I was born for this!” Ortiz yelled back.
* On Field 6, Pablo Sandoval batted right-handed against left-handed Tommy Layne in live BP. Sandoval’s last three swings: a liner down the third-base line, a shot off of the top of the fence in left field and a whiff. Farrell said Friday that Sandoval’s right-handed swing “looks much more consistent than we saw at any time last year.” He said Sandoval is getting himself into a better hitting position.