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April 9, 2016 at 12:30 PM

Cup of Coffee: Owens, Espinoza shine in first starts

4/9 Cup of Coffee: Left-handed pitcher Henry Owens (picturedjump-started the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox season with six shutout innings in a 2-0 victory, and right-handed pitcher Anderson Espinoza picked up where he left off last season with a dominant start in Low-A Greenville. While the PawSox were the lone affiliate to pick up a win Sunday, corner infielders Jantzen Witte (Portland), Nick Longhi (Salem) and Michael Chavis (Greenville) turned in impressive performances at the plate.


Pawtucket Red Sox 2 vs. Buffalo Bisons 0
After ending 2015 with 11 big-league starts, Henry Owens’ return to Triple-A was a smooth one. Owens allowed only one hit and three walks in six scoreless innings, striking out seven Bisons. A Sean Coyle home run and an Allen Craig RBI double were all the PawSox needed, as the bullpen completed the shutout. Christian Vazquez started his return from Tommy John surgery with an encouraging 1-for-2 night with a double and two walks.


Reading Fightin Phils (PHI) 8, Portland Sea Dogs 3
Portland pitchers allowed single runs in six of the first seven innings, as Reading slowly built its insurmountable lead. Starter Justin Haley took the loss after giving up two runs in two innings while Mitch Atkins and Simon Mercedes each allowed three runs in multi-inning relief appearances.

Jantzen Witte continued his fast start to 2016 with his second home run in as many games. He also chipped in a pair of singles and two RBI. At the top of the lineup, Mike Miller ripped a double and single, stole a base and scored two runs. The Sea Dogs’ outfield of Aneury Tavarez, Rainel Rosario, and Henry Ramos — batting second, fourth and fifth, respectively — combined to go 0 for 12 while Rosario and Ramos are still searching for their first hits in the young season.

Carolina Mudcats (ATL) 5, Salem Red Sox 2
After its 13-run Opening Day, the prospect-laden Salem offense quieted significantly Friday. A four-run Carolina fourth decided the game. Headliners Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benitiendi, and Rafael Devers went hitless, but first baseman Nick Longhi clubbed a double, single, and both Salem RBI. Moncada continued his aggressiveness on the base paths after a walk, taking second before being caught stealing third.

Right-handed starting pitcher Travis Lakins, ranked 10th by SoxProspects.com, cruised through three innings before an ugly fourth inning ended his night, having allowed five hits, four runs, and three walks.


Asheville Tourists (COL) 6, Greenville Drive 4
A six-run seventh inning powered Asheville to the victory despite a shutdown start from Greenville starter Anderson Espinoza 
(pictured). The hard-throwing righty struck out four in five innings of two-hit ball, needing only 67 pitches through five frames. But reliever Victor Diaz could only retire one batter in the seventh, allowing five hits and six runs — though only two earned.

Eleventh-ranked prospect Michael Chavis smacked a pair of doubles to power the Greenville offense. But the middle of the Drive lineup — Josh Ockimey, Austin Rei, and Luis Alexander Basabe — combined to go 0 for 12 with three strikeouts.


Player of the Night: Despite sky-high expectations, Anderson Espinoza was as advertised in his first start of 2016. The third-ranked prospect grew stronger throughout the start, retiring his last seven batters and touching 97 mph with his fastball in the fifth inning. The Red Sox use extreme caution with the prized, young starter, but two level jumps have yet to affect his performance in two years as a pro.

Photo Credit: Henry Owens, Anderson Espinoza by Kelly O'Connor