Healthy again, Owings seeking opportunity

March 1st, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Fortune revisited Rockies utility man immediately.

Two batters into the start of Sunday’s Cactus League opener in Scottsdale, Ariz., Owings was positioned just right for a soft liner from the D-backs' David Peralta, and Ketel Marte made a just-wrong baserunning decision. Easy double play.

For a guy who had the poor happenstance of a left hamstring injury last season -- just as he was re-establishing himself as a Major Leaguer -- it was nice to have luck return. Owings, a 29-year-old utility player, is aiming to make the Major League squad as a non-roster player for the second straight year -- and grab playing time.

Last season, Owings hit .268 and compiled a .757 OPS in 44 plate appearances in 17 games at six positions -- everywhere but pitcher, catcher and first base (where he dabbled during last Spring Training).

“That was a great opportunity for me last year,” said Owings, who first felt the hamstring strain on Aug. 12, and was in and out of the lineup until his last appearance on Aug. 19. “Once I got in a little bit of a groove, I was in the lineup, moving around, playing different positions. It [being injured] was frustrating, for sure.

“But to be back and hopefully pick up on that momentum, I feel like I'm in a good spot.”

Owings played 580 games for the D-backs from 2013-18, first as a middle infielder and later working in the outfield. A finger injury in ’17, however, required surgery, and adjustments he made thereafter went awry. In '19, he appeared in a combined 66 Major League games with the Red Sox and Royals while also spending 44 games with Boston's Triple-A affiliate.

Reuniting with Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan, and settling upon adjustments with his offseason hitting coach, Lorenzo Garmendia, reset his swing. Owings spent the offseason at home in Virginia, but communicated by video and feels his swing is in a good place. So is his health.

“He looks great, the body’s firing, he’s moving well -- the arm, the bat, the legs, you know, everything is showing up,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He's fully healed and healed from his hamstring injury last year. He's in a great spot physically.”

Owings has more experience at short than or , who were drafted as shortstops but moved because had the spot filled -- a factor that may be relevant if the Rockies deal Story in the final year of his contract. But Owings is focused on his current role.

“Going back to last year, I played every single position except first, catcher and pitcher with the Rockies, so I’m definitely comfortable moving around,” he said.

Real as it gets on March 1
Multiple injuries have kept lefty reliever , the Rockies' No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline, out of the Majors thus far; most recently, he was beset by a back injury at the start of Spring Training in 2020. During Monday’s 10-0 loss to the Dodgers, Black fed Bowden a regular-season situation -- an inning against a right-left mix at the heart of the Dodgers’ lineup.

The Dodgers scratched a two-out run on a Will Smith double and a Matt Beaty left-on-left single -- both on balls that fell in front of outfielders -- before Bowden finished up with a fly ball from Andy Burns.

“We’ve got to see Ben -- he’s ready,” Black said of the 2016 second-round Draft pick. “He’s been in pro ball for a number of years. He’s confident. He thinks he can pitch at this level. We’re going to give him an opportunity to show what he can do.”

Regaining his bearings
Non-roster invitee , competing for the fifth starter spot, gave up a two-run shot on a hanging curve to the Dodgers' No. 11 prospect, DJ Peters, and four hits total in two innings. The right-hander had thrown a curve to Peters on the previous pitch.

“I thought his stuff was pretty good today,” Black said. “I was encouraged.”

Last season with the Giants, Rodríguez was thrown off by manager Gabe Kapler’s melding of the starting and relief roles. He appeared in just two Major League games.

“When you're down in the alternate site, you're facing the same guys every day, and the guys that you're facing, not saying they’re not big leaguers, but it’s different compared to the guys that are here all the time,” Rodríguez said. “I'm just trying to get back to just trying to get the experience and just trying to get going like I was in ‘18 and ‘19.”