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Former pitcher Micah Owings is hitting .368 with two homers this spring.
Only a handful of ballplayers have ever made that transition successfully, and the chance of everything clicking immediately would seem to be minimal.
So Owings doesn't want to let himself get too excited about the results he's experienced so far in Nationals camp.
"I feel like I'm up for the task," he said. "I know it's going to take a lot of continued work. I don't want to get into a mode where I feel comfortable. So I want to continue to work, learn from these guys and see what happens."
What's happened so far is nothing short of remarkable. In nine Grapefruit League games, the pitcher-turned-outfielder is hitting .368 (7-for-19) with three doubles, two homers and eight RBI. His 1.211 OPS thus far has been bested only by top prospect Anthony Rendon and stars Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper.
Not bad for a guy who only a few months ago remained committed to his pitching career.
"He's impressing some people," manager Davey Johnson said. "He's been OK in the field and aggressive at the plate. I like his approach. He's had a great spring."
Owings always had the ability to hit, and he still holds the Georgia high school record with 69 career home runs, 25 of them coming during his senior season. But he was drafted by the Diamondbacks -- whose scouting director at the time was none other than Mike Rizzo -- as a pitcher, and he proceeded to post a 4.86 ERA in 138 career appearances (68 of them as a starter) with Arizona, Cincinnati and San Diego.
An elbow injury last season with the Padres, though, left Owings to contemplate his future. Rather than try to bounce back from surgery, he decided to forgo pitching altogether and signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals as a first baseman/outfielder.
All he's done since is rake at the plate and give everyone reason to believe he can make it back to the majors as an offensive force. Each of his homers to date have been hit to the opposite field, including a grand slam yesterday that helped carry the Nationals to a 6-3 victory over the Astros.
Barring a surprising turn of events that would probably have to include an injury or two, Owings has no chance of making the Nats' Opening Day roster. But the organization would like for him to go to Class AAA Syracuse, continue working on both his swing and his defensive play both in left field and at first base and perhaps be waiting in the wings in case of emergency.
"Coming off [the NL East title], we're not at that point to have the luxury to give him opportunities in that role up here right now," Johnson said. "He's going to have to continue during the season showing that he's capable. Of course, he may open some eyes from some other clubs: a veteran, right-handed bat coming off the bench. He's certainly got the power and he's certainly shown that he'll make more contact than you'd normally think for a pitcher-turned-hitter. So he's interesting. "
Though he knows this is a long-term career transition, Owings is more focused on the moment than whatever may await him down the road.
"Right now, it's kind of been my approach in my career not to think too long-term at all," he said. "Come in each day and get ready for whatever I can do to help the team that day and whatever I can do to get better. I'm going to continue to keep that focus and enjoy it. I'm having fun being in there getting the opportunities I've been given. ...
"You're going to have good days and bad days. But if you can come back to that, and enjoy the ride, you only get to enjoy the ride so long, so enjoy it while we can."