Micah Owings is no longer the best-hitting pitcher in baseball. Now he’s just another minor league first baseman trying to make it to the majors, as the 30-year-old has officially switched from pitching to hitting and signed with the Nationals.
Owings missed most last season following elbow surgery and was released by the Padres in October, prompting his move to first base after throwing 483 innings with a 4.86 ERA in six seasons for Arizona, Cincinnati, and San Diego.
During that time Owings hit .283 with a .502 slugging percentage, although it’s worth noting that he had a terrible 72/8 K/BB ratio and logged a grand total of just 219 plate appearances in six years. In other words, he’s far from guaranteed to be a productive everyday hitter, particularly at an offense-driven position like first base.
As a first baseman/pitcher, however, Owings could be awfully interesting even if he were just mediocre at both roles and for a minor-league deal the price is certainly right for the Nationals.
From Corey Brock of MLB.com comes word that the Padres have requested unconditional release waivers on Micah Owings. Which means the right-hander will become a free agent in early November.
Owings threw only 9 2/3 innings this season for San Diego before requiring surgery on his right elbow. He should be recovered from that procedure by the start of spring training next February, but the rehab and his lack of recent success will likely result in the 30-year-old from Georgia having to settle for a non-guaranteed minor league contract from some team this winter.
Owings spoke in July about wanting to focus more on hitting than pitching, but it’s not clear what his future plans are in that regard. The former third-round pick of the D’Backs owns a respectable .813 career OPS.
It wasn’t exactly a classic duel, but the White Sox put themselves another game up in the AL Central by beating the Tigers 5-4 in Monday’s makeup game.
The game’s decisive play took place in the fifth, when Dayan Viciedo hit a grounder to short with the bases loaded and one out. Jhonny Peralta decided to stay back on the ball, and by the time he made the feed to Omar Infante, Alex Rios was at second base ready to take out the defender. It led to a poor throw that Prince Fielder was unable to scoop, giving the White Sox two runs.
The game also featured Viciedo making a diving catch in left field and then having a ball go off his glove on back-to-back plays. The White Sox got their first run because of a HBP with the bases loaded. In the bottom of the eighth, DeWayne Wise, the White Sox’s best hitter on the day, took a run off the board by trying to go from second to third on a flyout. He was tagged well in front of the bag before Gordon Beckham could touch home and give the White Sox an insurance run.
Fortunately, that didn’t prove costly. White Sox manager Robin Ventura used three pitchers in the top of the ninth, getting one out apiece from Brett Myers, Matt Thornton and Addison Reed.
The winning pitcher was reliever Nate Jones, who worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Jose Quintana. He’s now 8-0 this season. If he can avoid a defeat from here, he’d become the 15th pitcher since 1901 to win at least eight games in a season without taking a loss. The last was Arizona’s Micah Owings last year. The last to go at least 9-0 was the Yankees’ Aaron Small, who went 10-0 in 2005.
Delmon Young drove in three of the four runs for the Tigers. Something about facing the White Sox brings out the best in him. He’s hit .333 with 13 homers in 294 at-bats lifetime against the Pale Hose, compared to .264 with 75 homers against everyone else. He averages a homer every 23 at-bats versus Chicago and every 40 at-bats against the rest of the league.
The White Sox will take their three-game cushion to Kansas City as they begin a six-game road trip Tuesday. They’ll face the Angels this weekend. The Tigers just wrapped up a 10-game road trip, so they do have the easier slate from here. After facing Oakland at home the next three days, they’ll close with 13 against the Twins and Royals.
Earlier this month Micah Owings sounded just about ready to give up pitching and focus on trying to make it back to the majors as a hitter, and now the decision has been made for him.
Owings will undergo elbow surgery after spending the past three months on the disabled list with a forearm injury and manager Bud Black said the procedure will “take care of some of the loose particles and shave down spurs.”
Presumably the operation will delay Owings’ transition to full-time position player at least somewhat, but Black indicated to Jeff Sanders of the North County Times that he’ll eventually be able hit while rehabbing.
Owings was an excellent hitter in college and has batted .283 with a .502 slugging percentage in the majors, albeit in limited and sporadic opportunities.
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.