I’ve written about Micah Owings a few times recently (these are called “slow news days”) and each time suggested that he might have a brighter future as a hitter than as a pitcher at this point.
Apparently the Diamondbacks and new general manager Kevin Towers agree, because after signing Owings to a minor-league contract yesterday they plan to give him some time at first base during spring training.
Owings has hit .293 with nine homers and a .538 slugging percentage in 198 career plate appearances (while posting a 5.11 ERA in 410 innings), but he’s never actually started a game anywhere but pitcher.
Here’s how Towers described his potential role in Arizona:
I would imagine he’ll see a little bit of time at first base, how much time I can’t tell you. I know we definitely want to get him some at-bats. He is kind of a dual-weapon guy. It would be nice to have a guy who on the days he may not be pitching you would still have a very good right-handed bat to win a game for you.
It’ll be interesting to see how things play out for Owings in spring training, because he probably has more value as a hitter who can also pitch some low-leverage innings than as a pitcher with a good bat. Technically he’ll be competing for a long relief job.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.