The Nationals signed Micah Owings to a minor league deal on Wednesday, inviting the 30-year-old to major league camp — as a first baseman.
Owings, a right-handed pitcher during the first six years of his major league career, began the transition back to a position player last season when a forearm strain forced him to the disabled list. While he was rehabbing the strain, after opening the season in the bullpen for the San Diego Padres, Owings continued to feel pain and felt the time was right for one of the league’s best-hitting pitchers to pursue his offensive game again.
Owings told the San Diego Union-Tribune at the time that his forearm strain did not have anything to do with his decision it did speed up the process. After that interview, later in the summer, Owings had bone chips removed from his elbow.
“I have thought about this transition for a long time,” Owings told the Union-Tribune. “It has always been in the back of my head because I can hit. I want to further develop this side of my game.”
Owings has always had a gift offensively, but as one of the best pitching prospects in the country, the Arizona Diamondbacks — and Mike Rizzo — drafted him in the third round for his pitching abilities.
The Nationals will give him an opportunity to further the transition in major league camp with them this spring. Last summer, when he began the process, Owings did not want to abandon pitching entirely. It is not yet known whether the Nationals will allow him to continue to pursue pitching.
As a pitcher, in 219 plate appearances, Owings is a .283 career hitter with a .310 on-base percentage and .502 slugging percentage. He also has nine career home runs. Over the course of eight seasons in the minors, Owings hit .337.