Former Reds reliever Micah Owings -- owner of a .293 lifetime batting average with .538 slugging in four years of limited MLB plate appearances -- has been signed by the Diamondbacks as a pitcher but is being urged to compete for the wide open, starting first baseman's job.
"We'll see how hard he wants to go after it," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson told USA Today's Mel Antonen in a recent XM satellite radio interview. "...We will give him the opportunity."
The six-foot-five, 230-pound Owings, a third round draftee originally signed by the Diamondbacks, has a prodigious amateur hitting record and has been a feared presence at the plate in 184 major league at-bats. He has hit four homers.
"His bat is huge," Gibson said. "...Micah is certainly a guy who might surprise you this year."
Owings, 28, sees himself as more of a two-way, pitcher/hitter in the mold of former Cubs first-rounder Brooks Kieschnick, now out of baseball, who was unable to sustain the duel role for long.
Moreover, to actually win the starting the first baseman's job, Owings will have to hold off a number of candidates, most significantly rookie Brandon Allen and veteran Xavier Nady. Disappointed with the team's poor showing last year, Gibson has brought 60 players into camp and has vowed to encourage spirited competition for starting positions across the board