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Owings shows versatility at first base

Almonte registers second scoreless outing; Arenado hits first spring homer
@JakeDRill
February 27, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- For Chris Owings, there’s likely one potential path onto the Rockies’ Opening Day roster -- be a versatile, do-everything utility man. It’s nothing new for the 28-year-old former first-round Draft pick. In seven big league seasons, Owings has played shortstop (243 games), second base (193) and outfield

MESA, Ariz. -- For Chris Owings, there’s likely one potential path onto the Rockies’ Opening Day roster -- be a versatile, do-everything utility man.

It’s nothing new for the 28-year-old former first-round Draft pick. In seven big league seasons, Owings has played shortstop (243 games), second base (193) and outfield (150).

But on Thursday, Owings was at a position he’s never played in an MLB or Minor League regular-season game -- first base. He started there for the Cactus League contest against the A’s at Hohokam Stadium.

When Owings was with the Royals last Spring Training, he played one game at first. He’s been taking some fielding practice at the position early in Rockies camp. Owings has also learned how important footwork is from Daniel Murphy, who became Colorado’s starting first baseman in 2019, despite limited experience there in his first 10 big league seasons.

“The biggest thing is just catch the ball, move your feet,” Owings said. “It’s more so, I think, the angle of some of the balls coming off a lefty’s bat.”

Early in spring camp, Owings is getting a lot of action around the diamond. He entered as a defensive replacement at second base on Sunday, then started at shortstop on Monday and Wednesday.

After playing only infield positions from 2013-15, Owings added outfield to his arsenal in ‘16, playing 49 games in center field for the D-backs out of necessity due to an injury to A.J. Pollock. Owings showcased his speed and range in the outfield, proving he can handle those positions, too.

Owings is willing to play any position for the Rockies, with whom he signed a Minor League deal on Dec. 23. That’s something that manager Bud Black values as he constructs a roster, and he’s been impressed with Owings’ flexibility.

“He’s athletic. I think he has on-field awareness,” Black said. “[First base], he feels comfortable with, even though he might not have a ton of innings there, at all. He wants this, he wants to move around the diamond, he wants to be in the lineup.”

Last season, Owings batted .139/.209/.233 in 66 games with the Royals and Red Sox. But he’s had offensive success in the past.

Owings’ best seasons came in 2016 and ‘17 with the D-backs. Over that stretch, he batted .273/.308/.428 in 216 games. He led the National League with 11 triples in 2016, then he set career highs in home runs (12) and RBIs (52) in ’17, despite being limited to 97 games.

In Colorado, Owings has been reunited with hitting coach Dave Magadan, who held the same position for Arizona from 2016-18. Perhaps that mentorship will lead to Owings having a bounce-back offensive season in ’20.

“It’s nice to have some familiarity, just to come here every day and know what we’re working on,” Owings said. “Just keep it simple and consistent, that’s the big thing.”

Almonte scoreless again

Yency Almonte registered his second scoreless appearance of the spring as he worked around a one-out single in the seventh. He has three strikeouts over two innings so far in Cactus League play.

After struggling in the Majors last season -- he had a 5.56 ERA in 28 games -- Black is eager to see how the 25-year-old right-hander develops this season.

“With Yency, there’s no doubt he’s got a big league arm. It’s just the consistency factor, and we’ve seen some great innings,” Black said. “He feels good about where he is, and that’s great. Part of that is the belief in yourself, now as if he feels he truly belongs, which I think he does, which is great.”

Star watch
Nolan Arenado hit his first home run of the spring -- a leadoff shot off A’s right-hander Parker Dunshee in the seventh. He went 1-for-3 out of the cleanup spot.

Several other starters filled the top of Colorado’s order. David Dahl went 0-for-3 with an RBI from the leadoff spot, Trevor Story went 1-for-3 with a single from the No. 2 hole and Charlie Blackmon went 0-for-3 at No. 3.

Badgers in town
The University of Wisconsin softball team stopped by Salt River Fields to take in the Rockies’ morning workouts and batting practice. It’s the third straight year that the Badgers have visited during Spring Training.

Wisconsin junior shortstop Lauren Foster is the daughter of Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster.

Up next
Right-hander Antonio Senzatela will make his spring debut when the Rockies travel to play the Giants at 7:05 p.m. MT on Friday at Scottsdale Stadium. Last season, Senzatela went 11-11 with a 6.71 ERA in 25 starts. However, he won three of his last four outings, which included a pair of quality starts, so he’ll look to carry that over into 2020. Right-handers Jeff Hoffman, Ryan Castellani, Tommy Doyle, Alexander Guillen and Julian Fernández and lefty Phillip Diehl are also scheduled to pitch for Colorado. Watch the game live on MLB.TV.

Jake Rill is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JakeDRill.