Owens, Elias or Johnson to start Sunday

Owens, Elias or Johnson to start Sunday

BOSTON -- The Red Sox will fill Joe Kelly's spot in the rotation from a trio of lefties at Triple-A Pawtucket, all of whom have Major League experience. Henry Owens, Roenis Elias and Brian Johnson are the men competing to start on Sunday in Houston and beyond as Kelly recovers from an impingement in his right shoulder.

Manager John Farrell will meet with the club's player development department and Triple-A manager Kevin Boles over the coming days before making a decision.

The 23-year-old Owens made 11 starts for the Red Sox last season, going 4-4 with a 4.57 ERA. The lefty was in competition for the fifth-starter's job in Spring Training that opened up when Eduardo Rodriguez went on the disabled list, but he was inconsistent.

Owens has had a strong start at Triple-A, going 1-1 with a 1.00 ERA in three outings. His last start was on Monday, meaning he could make that turn in place of Kelly with one extra day of rest and not have his routine disrupted.

"His three outings have been solid, yes, and if you look at the last outing in Jupiter against the Marlins in which he was more assertive, he was crisp, he threw the ball well, and it has continued on," said Farrell. "Certainly he's in the conversation."

If Johnson was to get the nod, it would mean that his first two Major League starts would both be in Houston. It would give the 25-year-old a chance to make up for his inauspicious debut last July 21, when he gave up three hits, four runs and four walks to the Astros in just 4 1/3 innings.

Johnson had a toe injury that slowed him in Spring Training, and the organization's No. 6 prospect is still in the process of getting stretched out. In two starts for Pawtucket, he is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA. His last start at Triple-A was on Saturday.

Elias, who was acquired in a trade from the Mariners in December, has made 49 starts over the past two seasons. In his first two starts for Pawtucket, he is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA. Elias made his last start on Sunday.

"With Henry, with Roenis and Johnson, who's getting stretched out, we feel like we've got guys with Major League-quality appearances under their belt and are ready to step in," said Farrell. "It's all going to be dependent upon days in which they start, where they're at, the recommendation of the Triple-A staff. That's all ongoing."

The Red Sox hope to get Rodriguez back in the rotation by early to mid-May.

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