Reds winging it with Micah Owings

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owings throwing.jpgThe Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jon Fay points out that the Reds seemingly had the perfect chance to deploy their pinch-hitter/middle reliever Micah Owings in Monday’s Opener. It had become clear during the top of the fifth that Aaron Harang wouldn’t be coming back out for another inning, and his spot was due up to start the bottom of the inning. With the Reds down 4-2, it would have been a fine time to let Owings hit and then hopefully pitch a couple of innings.
Instead, the Reds chose to hit Miguel Cairo (who grounded out) and pitch Mike Lincoln (who allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings). Owings ended up never appearing as a hitter or a pitcher in the 11-6 loss to the Cardinals.
Still, I’m not going to rail against Dusty Baker again here. Baker certainly could have gone to Owings off the bench, but the risk there is that he might not have been ready to pitch to start the sixth.
The right idea probably would have been to start warming him up when Harang let a couple of guys reach in the fifth. But then Owings would have had to come in from the pen to hit. If he made an out or homered, then everything like would have been fine, as he likely would have been left with at least another five minutes or so to complete his warmup. If he had reached base, though, the Reds almost certainly would have had to warm up another reliever to bring in to start the sixth and Owings would have been lost for the game.
It’s a difficult situation, as Owings is still a pitcher first and a hitter second. The Brewers had some success with Brooks Kieschnick back in 2003 and ’04, but he was thought of as a hitter first and then a pitcher. Kieschnick was involved in a decision just four times in 74 career relief appearances and three of those were extra-inning games.
Owings has more ability than Kieschnick did on the mound and probably at the plate as well. The Reds are going to rely on him a bunch in the sixth and seventh innings, particularly in situations like Monday when they’re down by one or two runs.
Unfortunately, that means the offense is going to take a backseat, at least unless Owings fights his way back into the rotation at some point. Owings, who sports a .300/.331/.547 line with eight homers in 170 major league at-bats, will hit when his spot is due up, but it’ll be an awful lot of trouble to try to arrange pinch-hitting appearances for him beforehand.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.