Former pitcher Micah Owings has reportedly signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals, according to a release by the team via Twitter. Washington has listed the 30 year old on their depth charts as a first baseman, a change from where Owings has spent the bulk of his MLB career to date.
Owings has spent the past six seasons spread between the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, and San Diego Padres organizations. For his career he holds a 32-33 mark with a 4.86 ERA over 483.0 innings of work. Primarily a starter early on, Owings has been utilized in more of a relief role over the past three years. In 2012 he made just 6 appearances for the Padres, all before the end of April. He underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in early July and was released in October.
Owings, however, has long been one of the better hitting pitchers in baseball and it appears that the Nationals are banking on his bat and not his arm in the deal. In 219 career plate appearances he’s a .283/.310/.502 hitter with 9 HR and 14 doubles. Owings will come to camp as a first baseman, though one has to wonder if he could handle an outfield corner as well. Some have suggested that Owings may stand a solid chance at winning a spot off the team’s bench this Spring, potentially even challenging Tyler Moore for a spot given their similarities. At 6’5”, 220 pounds Owings certainly has the size to handle first base, but it remains to be seen how proficient he can be in the field.
Should Owings make the team and establish himself as a regular fielder he will be the latest in a long line of players to transition from the mound to the field in their career. Rick Ankiel, perhaps the most notable to recently accomplish such a feat, spent the past two seasons in Washington.