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David Brown

GM: Diamondbacks will try pitcher Owings at first base in spring

David Brown
Big League Stew

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In a conference call on Monday afternoon, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said right-hander Micah Owings(notes) also would see time at first base this spring.

Holy double duty — Owings pulling a reverse Brooks Kieschnick?

Maybe. Kieschnick, who has one of the best nicknames ever — "The Tool Shed" — broke into the majors because of his hitting but finished his career as a reliever/pinch hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Using the bat makes a lot of sense for Owings, who has — shall we say — struggled on the mound after being pretty good as a rookie in 2007 and in the first part of 2008 with the D-backs. He has a 5.11 career ERA in 410 innings.

By contrast, it's Owings' bat that has always attracted more attention. Owings has a career line of .293/.323/.538 with nine homers in 198 plate apperances.

Whenever Owings pitches, the first thing I do is check to see how he did at the plate. His ability there obviously intrigues Towers, who recently signed Owings to a minor league deal.

Here's what Towers told the media, via Nick Piecoro's notes:

"I would imagine he'll see a little bit of time at first base — how much time I can't tell you," Towers said. "I know we definitely want to get him some at-bats. He is kind of a dual-weapon guy. It would be nice to have a guy who on the days he may not be pitching you would still have a very good right-handed bat to win a game for you."

And, as Piecoro notes, few players have ever had themselves a ballgame like the one Owings had against the Braves in '07:

Seven innings pitched and three earned runs allowed to go with a 4-for-5 day at the plate with two homers and six RBIs.

Manager Bob Melvin said at the time: "He's got as much power as anybody we've got on our team."

And that D-backs team made the playoffs.

At age 28, Owings is a few years younger than Kieschnick was when he decided to try double dipping. But it seems to me that trying to get one's act together on the mound while trying to also make the team as a hybrid is a lot to ask. There's also the matter of learning first base.

So, another question: Should Owings just pivot completely and try making it as a slugger? His sample size as a hitter is small, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio (62-8) is brutal, especially for a guy pitchers should be cautious with. Maybe he's not that good as a hitter, either.

If he does completely switch to offense and succeeds, good for him. Or if they drop it and he just gets his pitching on track, terrific. But for the moment, here's hoping the Owings experiment works and he becomes the D-backs' 25th man as the ultimate utilitarian. It would be too cool.

Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave

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