In one of the most interesting signings of the winter, the Washington
Nationals have signed Micah Owings to a minor league contract, with an
invitation to major league camp. Owings missed most of 2012 with an elbow
injury, but his projected comeback from that procedure is not what makes this
deal different. Despite sporting a lifetime won-lost record of 32-33,
Owings is listed as a first baseman on the Nationals depth chart.
The 30-year old lefthander was originally drafted and signed by the Arizona
Diamondbacks in 2005. He was used primarily as a starter in 2007-08
before he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a deal that saw Adam Dunn go to Arizona. In 2009,
the Reds continued to use him mostly as a starter, but for the third
consecutive season, he failed to post a winning record. 2010 saw him move
to the bullpen. After that season, he returned to the Diamondbacks as a
free agent, and did a very serviceable job out of their pen, showing a career
best 1.254 WHIP and 8-0 record in 63 innings of work. All this time the Gainesville, Georgia native was gaining a
reputation with his stick. In only 203 big league at-bats, Micah had
stroked nine homers and driven in 35 runs with a .283 batting average.
A free agent again following the 2011 campaign, Owings signed with the San
Diego Padres. Elbow problems limited him, however, to only six
appearances and nine innings before he was forced to shut down in late
April. Surgery to clean up his elbow followed in July. The Padres
chose not to wait out Owings' rehab, and released him in October.
Owings will now attempt what former Nationals centerfielder Rick Ankiel
accomplished...to move from the mound to position player at the highest level
of competition. Brooks Kieschnick (Cubs, Reds, Rockies,
and Brewers) made the move from the field to the mound with the 2003 Brewers
and found mild success. Mel Queen of the Cincinnati Reds (whose dad Mel Queen
was a big league pitcher as well) also transitioned from outfield to mound in
1966. Queen Jr. authored fourteen wins and a 1.058 WHIP in 1967, but had
very little success thereafter.
Owings, 6'5" and 220 lbs. certainly has the size of a first
sacker. His minor league .337 batting average makes this a risk with
possible great reward for both him and the Nationals, and takes the issues with
his elbow down to a minimum. Should the arm fully recover, his utility as
both a hitter and emergency hurler could add years to his career.
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