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Friends Coyle, Owens enjoy Futures Game together

Double-A Portland second baseman, pitcher start in U.S. Team's win over World Team

Friends Coyle, Owens enjoy Futures Game together

MINNEAPOLIS -- A rare Red Sox prospect who hasn't received a lot of hype during his climb through the farm system, Sean Coyle was a little surprised when Double-A Portland manager Billy McMillon recently told him he was going to the premier showcase event for Minor Leaguers.

"When our manager called me, I thought he was joking," said Coyle. "He called me one morning and said, 'Guess who's going to the Futures Game?' I was like, 'I don't know, man. Your guess is as good as mine.' He said, 'You're going.' I said, 'No way.' That kind of caught me by surprise and it's definitely something I'm really excited about."

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Coyle, who was named as a roster replacement to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game after Mookie Betts was promoted to the Red Sox, went 0-for-2 while batting second and starting at second base for the U.S. Team in Sunday's 3-2 win over the World Team.

And Portland ace lefty Henry Owens was the starting pitcher, firing a scoreless first inning before giving way to the bullpen.

Perhaps because of his underwhelming 5-foot-8, 175-pound frame, Coyle has been able to develop his skills without a lot of fanfare.

Making the trip to Minneapolis even more memorable is that Coyle got to travel with Owens, one of his best friends on the Sea Dogs.

"Me and Henry are really good friends on the team," said Coyle. "We double up on the bus together. We hang out a lot off the field. Two guys from the same team, just in general to come here is pretty cool, but the fact that it's Henry and I and we're good buddies is something exciting and fun."

Coyle is hitting .336 with 11 homers, 47 RBIs and a .997 OPS.

"I think I made some swing adjustments this offseason that I started working on, kind of in the middle of the summer last season and just trying to create a little bit of rhythm, a little bit of direction and staying in the zone a little bit longer," said Coyle. "I've been able to be a little bit more consistent with bringing the same swing to the ballpark every day."

Consistency has also been a key for Owens this season, and Coyle has enjoyed watching his friend carve up opposing hitters in the Eastern League.

"He throws his offspeed whenever he wants to and keeps guys guessing," said Coyle. "He gets guys late on his fastball and early on his offspeed and he's a smart pitcher and he's starting to be able to pitch to some contact, which is funny to say. He is kind of shying away from striking everybody out, but I think that's what he's been working on and trying to go deeper into games. It's really fun to play behind him."

In his 17 starts for Portland, Owens is 12-3 with a 2.21 ERA. He has 111 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings and opponents are hitting .183 against him.

A promotion to Triple-A should come soon for Owens, and then he'd be just one phone call away from joining the recent wave of prospects who have been called up to Fenway Park.

"Every year, I've kind of progressed," said Owens. "I always had expectations coming into each year and I try and surpass them and stay as humble as possible. I have to thank Bob Kipper, the pitching coach in Portland. He's been very instrumental in my success, especially commanding all three of my pitches."

Owens looks forward to the time when he can call Fenway Park his home office, and he hopes to be able to call Jon Lester a teammate. After following Lester around during Spring Training, Owens would love to try learning from the All-Star lefty for an entire season.

"I hope they're able to sign Lester," said Owens. "He deserves to retire a Red Sox. He's done so much for the organization. I'd like to see him there for a long time."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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