The Nationals announced Wednesday the signing of Micah Owings to minor league deal with an invitation to major league camp. It’s an interesting signing because Owings has an interesting story. The Nationals announced Owings’s position as a first baseman, although he spent nearly all of his six big league seasons as a right-handed starter and reliever.
Owings, 30, was drafted in the third round in 2005 by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Tulane University, under the direction of then-scouting director Mike Rizzo. Owings spent the better part of six seasons in the majors pitching for Arizona, mainly as a starter, and the Cincinnati Reds, mostly as a reliever, and last season with San Diego Padres. He compiled a pedestrian 4.86 ERA and 32-33 record over 68 starts and 70 relief appearances, his control an issue.
But last season, while rehabbing a strained right forearm with the Padres on the disabled list, the 6-foot-5 Owings converted to a position player, his initial suggestion, with the support of the team’s front office. Owings was always a strong hitter, dating back to his college days, and as a pitcher in the majors. He won the Silver Slugger Award in 2007 in 2007 as a pitcher for posting a .333/.349/.683 triple slash line with four home runs and 15 RBI. In 219 major league plate appearances, the right-handed batter posted a .283/.310/.502 line with nine home runs and 35 RBI, often as a pinch-hitting pitcher.
As a senior at Tulane, after transferring there from Georgia Tech, Owings led his team with 18 home runs. In three seasons of college baseball, he hit 48 home runs.
The Nationals consider Owings a first baseman, who can likely pitch in a pinch, and his future appears destined for the minor leagues. But like former National Rick Ankiel, Owings’s story of switching positions at the highest level of the sport is a fascinating one.
Late last month, the Nationals also made a handful of small minor league signings, including the addition of Jerad Head. The outfielder has spent seven years in the minor leagues, appearing in 10 games for the Cleveland Indians in 2011.