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Nats give Owings shot at 1B

Feb 6, 2013, 5:01 PM EDT

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Micah Owings has a 4.86 ERA, but he also boasts a career .283 batting average.

Mike Rizzo drafted Micah Owings in 2005 as one of the top pitching prospects in the country out of Tulane University. Owings, though, always possessed strong offensive skills, so after his pitching career stalled out he decided to make another run at it as a first baseman.

And the man who will give him an opportunity to complete that transformation is none other than Rizzo.

The Nationals have signed Owings to a minor-league contract, with an invitation to big-league camp. His odds of making the Opening Day roster appear slim at best, but if Owings is willing to go to Class AAA Syracuse and prove he can consistently hit as a regular position player, he could find his way back to D.C. at some point.

Owings, 30, was drafted by Rizzo in 2005 when the latter was scouting director for the Diamondbacks. He debuted two years later and over six seasons with Arizona, Cincinnati and San Diego went
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  1. MicheleS - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    'Cuse filler!

  2. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:15 PM

    30 years old. Don't the Nats under the new CBA have to pay him on the veteran minimum pay scale for Minor League players?

  3. whatsanattau - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    Now that's a cool signing. Rizzo rocks.

  4. whatsanattau - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    Just to elaborate, it's outside the box, costs little, potentially offers roster and organizational flexibility, and has virtually no downside.

  5. Section 222 - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    Too bad for him that with a pitcher's arm he can't play the outfield like Ankiel did. The hitting bar for steady work at 1B is very high, and there are a lot of guys ahead of him on the depth chart — ALR, Moore, Tracy, Marrero, Skole, Zim….

  6. NCNatsie - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Picking up from the previous thread with regard to pitchers and the post-season:I continue to believe our starters' problem was weather-related. Particularly in Gio's case. He is a Miami guy and had trouble in the chill of October. We have an inordinate number of warm weather pitchers on the staff. I actually counted them at one time, but have lost the list, but is was a significant majority of the roster, notably including Gio and Stras. Time will tell (hopefully, at least in the sense that it means the Nats are playing postseason baseball.) Maybe we need more guys from places like Wisconsin (JZimm) and Missouri (Det).

  7. SCNatsFan - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    Strange signing but it appears the dude can hit

  8. NCNatsie - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    Mark's article reads, "He's always been a gifted offensive player and over 219 career plate appearances sports a .283 batting average, nine homers and a stout .813 OPS. In three college seasons, he blasted 48 homers."Do I understand from that that the 219 plate appearances are at the major league level, while he was pitching with AZ, Cincy and San Diego? If so, I'd say SCNatsFan is right: the dude can hit.

  9. SonnyG10 - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Why not? He may prove himself enough to get something for him in a trade if we don't use him ourselves.

  10. bowdenball - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    That's correct, NCNatsie. His hitting prowess when with the DBacks in was a story for a while. In 2007 he hit .333 with a .349 OBP and an amazing .683 slugging in 64 plate appearances. I remember people wondering if the D-Backs would move him up in the order, although I don't think they ever did.

  11. John C. - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    So if he's going to play 1b at Syracuse … where is Marrero going to play?

  12. natsfan1a - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    I recall hearing of his hitting prowess as a pitcher back in the day.

  13. Laddie Blah Blah - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    He could pinch hit for the pitcher and replace him on the mound in the next inning. Only Rizzo could find a guy like that, or even know that one exists.

  14. SCNatsFan - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    It would seem at this point Owings may have a higher ceilig then Marrero

  15. sjm308 - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    John C: thanks for that update on Verducci

  16. baseballswami - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    Rizzo's head is a freaking computer. He never, ever forgets any player. So , that 18 inning tie game? No problem. Double switch. 1b pitches, hits for himself- game. This last week clubs will be scooping up players to fill out depth charts. Bourne, Lohse still out there– scratching my head.

  17. blovy8 - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    Marrero's still only 24, but Owings has already shown more power. Tough situation for him.

  18. Section 222 - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    Can someone who's not even on the 40-man be called up after a game goes into extra innings to serve as a 1B turned emergency pitcher?

  19. bowdenball - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    Guys, I love Rizzo as much as the next Nats fan, but Owings' hitting prowess wasn't exactly a secret. There were national media features on it back in 2007. And I think the decision to try to transform him into a hitter was first made by the Padres last year.

  20. Scooter - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    Yes, Owings's stick is as famous as it is mighty. I heart this move. I remember being puzzled when a former team moved him to the bullpen, because it mean he wouldn't get to hit.

  21. Laddie Blah Blah - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    I can't help wondering if Rizzo isn't thinking that Owings will be the backup at 1b this year. If LaRoche shows up and has a solid ST, then you can bet Davey will play him almost every day. Davey loves ALR and I can't say I blame him. it's his glove as much as his bat that makes him so valuable to Davey.That would mean that Moore's primary role would be as a pinch hitter. Maybe Rizzo wants to send him back to Syracuse to get the reps he needs to polish his defense and cut down on his strikeouts for the day when ALR leaves, or gets hurt, and they need Moore to step in as the everyday guy.Owings looks like the prototype pinch hitter who could fill that role in the bigs while Moore prepares for the role of 1b regular-to-be. Just wondering what Mike had in mind here.Not meaning to be harsh, but Marrero has no power, is a mediocre hitter, mediocre fielder, and a very slow baserunner. If it's not either Moore or Skole who fills in behind ALR, it won't be Marrero, either. If I have noticed that Marrero has no game, I'm sure Rizzo has, too.

  22. Tony - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    Owings won't be the backup at first base this year. They have Tyler Moore and Chad Tracy for that. But he could be the insurance policy in case Tracy gets hurt. His BA as a pitcher shows that he can still hit well even when he's only going to the plate every couple of days. He could turn out to be valuable as a pinch hitter even if he never sets foot at first base.

  23. IKN8wxU2 - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    I wouldn't read too much into this. It's a low risk gamble, but I doubt Rizzo has anything specific in mind, besides being able to sign a potentially good bat to a minor league contract. If he tears up AAA, it gives the Nats more options, such as packaging Moore in a deal, but that's a long shot and I don't think it means more than that. I agree that Marrero doesn't seem likely to ever play again for the Nats, but it would be nice if I'm wrong.

  24. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    Or maybe he is just in a position to do one of his boys a solid.

  25. Laddie Blah Blah - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    TonyMay be, but Moore is wasted as a backup just sitting on the bench.IKN-"I doubt Rizzo has anything specific in mind."Rizzo always has something in mind. Just trying to guess what it is. Of course, I don't know. But we'll find out.

  26. Tony - Feb 6, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    One of the defining characteristics of a good team is the presence of players on the bench who really shouldn't be sitting there because they are good enough to be starters on other not-so-good teams.

  27. Theophilus T. S. - Feb 6, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    "It would seem at this point Owings may have a higher ceilig [sic] then [sic] Marrero."That's surely damning with faint praise.

  28. IKN8wxU2 - Feb 6, 2013 at 9:13 PM

    Laddie Blah Blah-"Rizzo always has something in mind. Just trying to guess what it is. Of course, I don't know. But we'll find out."I should have been more precise. I don't see how Rizzo can know what he's got with Owens, so he can only have scenarios in mind, rather than one definite thing. That is, even Rizzo doesn't know if Owens will pan out as a hitter. If he does, do you need both Owens and Moore? Or maybe it takes Owens most of season to figure out playing every day, and then he's a September callup. Or maybe it just doesn't work, and Owens retires.In any event, maybe the Nats pick up a major league hitter cheap.

  29. sjm308 - Feb 6, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    I am not a huge Marrero fan but it seems like some here have a short memory. Maybe I am wrong about this but wasn't Davey gushing about Marrero in the short time he was with the club right before he got injured a few years ago. I realize he does not hit for power and he has been with us for a decade (hard to do at 24 but seriously he has been here awhile). I thought Davey was planning on using him off the bench before things went south for him. We now have great depth at first and I doubt that we can get much for Chris but I believe he was in our future plans at one time. Now it seems like he is just minor league fodder. Kinda sad how a career can just flame out with one injury, but he is not the first.

  30. David - Feb 6, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    I love this move. I was in New Orleans at UNO when Owings was tearing it up at Tulane. Hit for a lot of power at Tulane, against great competition. He's kind of an Adam Dunn type of athlete. 9 HR's in 205 at bats in the majors. Not bad at all. Looking back we had some great rivalries between UNO and Tulane. My senior year in 2004, UNO actually took 2 of 3 from Tulane, despite them having a roster full of MLB talent. Brian Bogusevic. Tommy (from da parish) Manzella. Brad Emaus. Mark Hamilto,. Brandon Gomes and Owings. Anyway, this is a "Moneyball" move…. "i'm catcher" – "well now you're a first baseman, do you want a job or not?". Happy to see him come to the Nationals, and finally give up pitching.

  31. Tcostant - Feb 6, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    I see Owings as a September call up guy, he needs to play regularly, so his body can get use ti the daily grind. If he smells a call up before September 1sr, I'll be shocked!

  32. sm13 - Feb 6, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    Would anyone be surprised if Owings is seen pitching off a mound in ST? I like the idea of a pinch hitter/relief pitcher combo. More than likely it doesn't pan out, but its fun to think about.

  33. peric - Feb 6, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    Future coach.

  34. JD - Feb 6, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    Without injury there is no roster spot available for Owings and it still remains to be seen if he can hit on a regular basis. Another Rick Ankiel?

  35. SonnyG10 - Feb 6, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    I see no possibility of using him as both a pitcher and an everyday player. Each catagory requires too much training time for Owings to do both.

  36. BigCat - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:30 AM

    I would guess Marrero will be traded. He is still young and is a hard worker. He will play in the big leagues with someone other than the Nats.

  37. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:33 AM

    Jon Heyman‏@JonHeymanCBSAgent Levinson: "ridiculous" to think they condone PEDs. Aces had most clients in Mitchell Report, now most in BiogenesisNot good to be the leader in the clubhouse on this list.Gio and Morse are both Aces clients.

  38. sjm308 - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    Question to my West Coast Insiders (or anyone else with thoughts). We just booked our trip to Calif. Will be in Napa for 3 days and San Fran. from the 21st through 24th. Nationals play Tuesday night and Wed at 12:45. We are leaning toward the night game but I have no idea about ticket availability. any thoughts on which game would be better, we are totally flexible.Thanks in advance

  39. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:46 AM

    sjm, I'm a SoCal guy and not a San Fran guy but generally the rule of thumb is day games during the week have easier availability unless you are talking Wrigley.

  40. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:49 AM

    From Amanda on the Aces Agency connection & Giohttp://ht.ly/hurTS

  41. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 7, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    I think there will come a time when we will see bench players more versatile than they are now, being a relief pitcher and a bat off the bench. I wonder what kind of switches will be made then.

  42. Laddie Blah Blah - Feb 7, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    "I don't see how Rizzo can know what he's got with Owens, so he can only have scenarios in mind, rather than one definite thing."Why not? Rizzo has a history with Owings, one that goes all the way back to scouting him and drafting him. He remembers his guys. When he had a chance to bring back AJ Cole, he did. Now, he had a chance to re-sign Owings, and he did. You don't think he had a reason for Owings as much as he had a reason for Cole?Rizzo always has scenarios in mind. That's the point. Owings gives him options that most other players don't. The Nats did not need a backup first baseman, but Mike went out and signed this one, anyway.Of course he has something in mind. After all, there were other backup first basemen that could have been had, e.g. Nick Johnson. But Mike signs a pitcher, instead, and names him as a backup first baseman.This signing is Rizzo at his imaginative best, IMO.

  43. Laddie Blah Blah - Feb 7, 2013 at 7:49 AM

    "Kinda sad how a career can just flame out with one injury, but he is not the first."Yeah. He just never lived up to their expectations, and Moore and Skole have shown more than expected. He's probably got RZ ahead of him as an option at 1b, too. He did his best, but it just hasn't been as good as the guys who are now ahead of him.The Nats will likely have another young slugger at Hagerstown next year at 1b (Shawn Pleffner) who showed ample power at Auburn last year. They are suddenly very deep at 1b, all the way down to the low minors. They could lose Marrero tomorrow and never miss him.

  44. sjm308 - Feb 7, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    Laddie: well stated.I like to look up total earnings and Owings has made over 1.7 million in his 6 major league seasons. I am not sure how well he have saved but wouldn't we all like to have that kind of earning power. This could end up a really great story but there is certainly no negatives that I see. If nothing else, he can tell the young men down in AAA what the big show is like and help them get ready.

  45. ehay2k - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    how far we have come! Wasn't Marrero our top rated prospect at one time? Now he has been crowded out by a lot of other talent. Is he even in our top ten now? (on a plane and not going to try to look that up on my phone)GYFNG (To Viera)

  46. ehay2k - Feb 7, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    how far we have come! Wasn't Marrero our top rated prospect at one time? Now he has been crowded out by a lot of other talent. Is he even in our top ten now? (on a plane and not going to try to look that up on my phone)GYFNG (To Viera)

  47. natsfan1a - Feb 7, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    I'd agree with that assessment (excepting holidays, which this won't be). More generally, I believe that tickets sales had been more brisk since the 2010 WS win. Looks like the Giants site will open single-game ticket sales to the general public at 10 AM (CA time) on Saturday, so you could look at availability then. The night game is likely to be colder, fwiw. On a touristy note, you might want to stop at Muir Woods on your way to Napa.Ghost Of Steve M. said… sjm, I'm a SoCal guy and not a San Fran guy but generally the rule of thumb is day games during the week have easier availability unless you are talking Wrigley. February 06, 2013 7:46 PM sjm308 said… Question to my West Coast Insiders (or anyone else with thoughts). We just booked our trip to Calif. Will be in Napa for 3 days and San Fran. from the 21st through 24th. Nationals play Tuesday night and Wed at 12:45. We are leaning toward the night game but I have no idea about ticket availability. any thoughts on which game would be better, we are totally flexible. Thanks in advance February 06, 2013 7:41 PM

  48. natsfan1a - Feb 7, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Looking at the schedule again, those weekdays are leading up to a holiday weekend. Not sure whether that might be a factor in ticket availability. Don't see any promos/giveaways listed for Tuesday and Wednesday, so that won't be a factor.

  49. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 7, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    @sjm: Seconding 1a; if you get the night game, bring your parka. I'm not kidding. As for availability, the Giants are coming off a WS trophy, they have always drawn well at the new place, and the Nats in first place should bring a good crowd on top of that. Get your tickets early if you don't want to take a second mortgage to get in the park.

  50. waddu eye no - Feb 8, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    That nido is neato! Knocked me off my seato. Think ill go to the lido. ( too cold for a speedo)

  51. natsfan1a - Feb 8, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    You could go incognito. (Well done.) ;-)

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