Owings a threat on mound, at plate
D-backs right-hander slated to start Game 4 of the NLCS
DENVER -- Micah Owings recently proved to his team that under any circumstance, he's always ready for the call.
No call will be bigger than the one he will get Monday, when the rookie right-hander will take the mound at Coors Field to start Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Rockies.
"Don't worry," said teammate Chris Young. "He's going to go out and battle. He's staying in good spirits, and he's playing his role great right now. That's all you can ask from a player."
Owings has shown an uncanny ability to battle, to respond and to adapt to his role over the past month. After a Sept. 8 start, Owings was the odd-man out of the rotation, pitching when called upon, but not on a normal four days of rest. Not once was he fazed.
Owings will take with him to the mound a scoreless innings streak of 17 1/3 innings. A shutout on nine days of rest in mid-September was followed by a scoreless 6 1/3-inning appearance on eight days' rest. That would seem to bode well for Monday's start, which will come on 17 days' rest.
"He's a competitor," Young said. "The latter part of the season, he hasn't been in the normal rotation. He's going to go out there and compete when his card is called."
Nothing exemplified that better than Owings' final start of the season. Not expecting to make a start in the D-backs' series in Pittsburgh the final week of the season, manager Bob Melvin approached Owings the morning of the series finale, asking him to make a spot start.
With an ominous forecast for the day, Melvin didn't want to send scheduled starter Brandon Webb to the mound and risk losing him to a lengthy rain delay.
"When we approached him that morning, you could see him process it for a minute," Melvin recalled. "But he was all about -- I mean, he was all for it. He wanted the ball."
Owings answered with 6 1/3 shutout innings, a game that, at the time, the D-backs desperately needed to stop a three-game skid.
Owings has not pitched for the D-backs since then. His start in Game 4 of the Division Series became irrelevant when Arizona completed a three-game sweep.
The 25-year-old right-hander threw 75 pitches in an instructional league game last Tuesday, facing live hitters for the first time since that start in Pittsburgh.
"As far as guys on our team with layoffs ... he threw a game in [the] instructional league the other day," Melvin said. "So when you look at the days off, I don't think it really factors into the extent of where he did just pitch."
And then there's Micah Owings -- the hitter.
"Not only can he pitch, but he rakes," said pitcher Doug Davis, laughing. "He's fun to watch take BP. He's fun to watch at the plate during a game. You always know something is going to happen. He's the real deal."
A standout hitter throughout high school and college, Owings made more national waves during the season for his performances at the plate than he did on the mound.
There was the Aug. 18 game Owings started in Atlanta in which he connected for two home runs and two other base hits on his way to a six-RBI game, the most RBIs in a game by a pitcher in more than five years. He also scored four times in the game.
Then came that start in Pittsburgh, where on top of limiting the Pirates to four base hits, Owings contributed four hits and three RBIs in the winning effort.
"I just enjoy being in the box," said Owings, who hit .322 in his two collegiate years. "I've been blessed to play the game not only as a pitcher, but to be able to swing it, too. Whenever I get in there, I enjoy it."
Owings finished the season with a .333 average, 11 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in 60 at-bats.
Owings' offensive ability is something that could change the dynamic of the game. Owings, who was used as a pinch-hitter in Game 2, gives the D-backs an advantage in the lineup.
"We're in a DH situation, American League situation, when he's in the game," Melvin said. "[He] definitely brings a different dynamic to the game. His numbers aren't just because they're going to lay it in there for a pitcher. They pitch to him like a hitter right away. And he responds."
The young right-hander will make his first postseason start of a big league career that at this point has just 25 starts in it.
Somewhat surprisingly, Owings did not face Colorado despite 18 meetings between the teams during the regular season. That said, Owings may have an advantage.
"When you haven't seen a pitcher before, sometimes it can present some complications or some challenges," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle.
Known for his humility, Owings wasn't about to read too much into the fact that most players in the Colorado lineup know nothing more about him other than what they have seen on game film.
"We like to think [it would help]," said Owings, who held opposing hitters to a batting average below .200 in his final 10 starts of the year. "But you never know. You face a team first only once, so we'll see what happens."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.