Owings brings versatility to playing-time battle
D-backs have three strong options for two middle-infield spots
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Owings made his first appearance of the spring at shortstop in the D-backs' 14-6 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday, as the team continues to sort out its starting middle infield.
It will be one of the more interesting things to watch over the final weeks of camp, with Owings, Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed battling for the two starting spots.
All three are natural shortstops, and Marte and Ahmed have also started games there this spring. Owings, who had surgery on his right hand last August and again in the offseason, had not played short while he built his arm strength back up.
There was talk in the offseason about Owings filling more of a jack-of-all-trades role, where he would play second, short, third and both corner spots in the outfield in order to get his bat in the lineup on a regular basis.
With the acquisitions of Steven Souza Jr. and Jarrod Dyson, there likely will be less time for Owings in the outfield, but D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said not to count out Owings for the starting spot at short or second.
"We've told him along the way that he's going to continue to maneuver and play all over the field, as he did last year," Lovullo said. "He's going to compete at short, and if he wins a spot as a starting shortstop, then he's also going to continue to play third, second, left and right."
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Marte will also see time at second this spring; he started there Saturday against the Dodgers.
"Ketel has been told he's going to compete to be our starting shortstop and, we're going to look to play him at second base," Lovullo said. "We haven't defined anything. We want to get our eyes on things and see what it all looks like."
Ahmed, though, will see time strictly at shortstop. He has played only two games at second in his big league career and is considered an elite defender at short.
"I'd say on that front, we value Nick as a shortstop.," Lovullo said. "I haven't had a conversation with him beyond playing shortstop at this point."
Owings had not played shortstop since injuring his hand on July 30 in St. Louis last year, but for him, it was like riding a bicycle.
"I think I need to take a few more ground balls at short," Owings said. "I've been taking a lot at second, but felt good out there."
Moving between positions is nothing new for Owings. Over the past two seasons, he has played short, second and all three outfield positions.
"I think that's just the biggest thing, and I'll use my experiences from bouncing out to the outfield and then coming back to the infield," Owings said. "As long as I get my grounders in at short or second, I'll be fine. There's not as much movement [at third], but you have to move your feet, and you've got to get your footwork going when you're playing short and second. That's where my focus is going to be."