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Chris Owings could see time in the outfield corners this spring

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Diamondbacks’ infielder/outfielder Chris Owings is preparing for another defensive switch in 2017, the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro writes. According to GM Mike Hazen, the 25-year-old will see some time in the outfield corners during spring training in order to provide the club with extra insurance in case of injury.

That strategy worked out well for the Diamondbacks in 2016, when Owings filled in for starting center fielder A.J. Pollock after Pollock suffered a season-ending elbow injury during spring training. It was a significant switch for Owings, who had previously only seen time in the middle infield over three seasons in the big leagues.

Per Piecoro’s report, Hazen envisions Owings in a Brock Holt-like role for the club, one that spans multiple infield/outfield positions. Ideally, Piecoro writes, he’d form a platoon with outfielder David Peralta against left-handed pitchers.

“I think there’s a lot of versatility on the roster, to be honest with you, and he’s fantastic at it,” Hazen said. “He was one of our best outfielders with no preparation last year. I think that speaks to his athleticism and skill. I would surprised if he went just about anywhere on the field and didn’t look pretty natural.”

Owings’ defensive flexibility should also afford him more at-bats in the lineup, something that appeals to Arizona management after watching his performance at the plate in 2016. Owings carried a .277/.315/.416 batting line with a career-best 21 stolen bases and 40 extra bases over 466 PA. The way Hazen sees it, keeping him on as the team’s everyday backup would allow them to preserve his bat in the lineup while looking to their Triple-A affiliate for extra support off the bench.

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.