Micah Owings switches from pitcher to first baseman, signs with Nationals

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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.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.