Micah Owings may finally give full-time hitting a try

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After years of people wondering why Micah Owings didn’t attempt to become a full-time hitter after putting up good offensive numbers as a mediocre pitcher he may finally be ready to give it a shot.

Owings is currently on the disabled list with a forearm injury and once healthy might resume pitching, but in the meantime the Padres are on board with him getting regular reps as a hitter in the minors.

“I haven’t given up pitching, but I’m following my conviction to pick up a bat,” Owings told John Maffei of the North County Times. “The club is behind it, and I’m grateful for that. I’m not doing this because of the injury. I’m doing it because I have a passion for hitting and have the ability.”

Owings was an excellent hitter in college and has batted .283 with nine homers and an .813 OPS in 219 plate appearances as a big leaguer, although for whatever reason few managers have even used him as a regular pinch-hitter and he hasn’t logged more than 20 plate appearances in a season since 2009.

Toss in the fact that he’s limited to first base or an outfield corner defensively and has an ugly 72/8 K/BB ratio as a hitter and Owings is hardly a sure thing to produce enough to play regularly in the majors, but with a 4.86 career ERA and arm problems it’s certainly worth a try.

Not since Brooks Kieschnick has there been a legitimate pitcher/hitter in the majors, and if Owings can get healthy he’d seemingly be an asset in a true dual role.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.