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Former Gainesville High star finds success in Bigs

POSTED: August 13, 2011 4:16 p.m.
JORDAN MEGENHARDT | For The Times/

Despite not making the cut out of spring training with Arizona, Owings is now 2-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 20 appearances.

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The most impressive thing about Micah Owings’ young pro baseball career so far might be how resilient he’s been in the face of adversity. It’s a trait he didn’t have to learn at a young age after starring at Gainesville High, and both Georgia Tech and Tulane University. But after his second and most recent stint in the minor leagues, Owings, a right-hander relief pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, has found peace and comfort in just doing what he can do help the team.

Sounds like a pretty common-sense approach, right?

“I’ve really become more grateful through the ups and downs I’ve experienced in my career,” Owings said. “I know there is a higher power that’s in control and looking out for me.”

Now, Owings (6-0, 2.68 ERA) is at one of the highest points in his career, despite not making the cut with Arizona out of spring training and starting the year with Triple-A Reno. What makes it even more of a complete circle is that his career is right back where it started when he was a rookie in 2007 with the Diamondbacks.

Owings is currently pitching out of the bullpen exclusively since the Diamondbacks picked up right-hander Jason Marquis from the Washington Nationals on July 30. But that change in status hasn’t shaken Owings’ confidence. He knows the role of the middle reliever are also critical to earning the win and staying in the National League West race with the San Francisco Giants.

On Aug. 5 against Los Angeles, Owings had his best outing of the season in relief by allowing only two hits and no earned runs in 4 2/3 innings of work out of the bullpen.

“My job is just to go in there and leave the score where it’s at when I came in the game,” Owings said.

Part of Owings’ attitude toward pitching is maturity and appreciating how fragile success can be as a major league pitcher. He spent rocky 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, before ending last year with Triple-A Louisville.

During his stint with Cincinnati, he came out of the bullpen his fair share, but wasn’t used to the lack of predictability that comes with life as a relief pitcher.

“It was tough at first because I was used to pitching every five days,” Owings said. “But I don’t worry about that anymore.

“I just focus on doing my best when I’m called on and always stay ready to pitch.”

Another part of Owings’ assimilation to the bullpen goes hand-in-hand with his eagerness to please the fans. Owings has always been the kind of player goes out of his way to sign all the autographs for fans and pose for pictures when there’s time.

When he was called up to Arizona on May 17, his first appearance was a start at home against the Minnesota Twins, and he felt like he’d come home again with his career back on track at Chase Field.

“It was great that night,” Owings said. “There was a huge crowd of about 40,000 fans and lots of noise.

“It felt great.”

Owings’ first two appearances with Arizona this season were as a starter, before moving primarily into the role of reliever. On July 24 against the Rockies,, he pitched five innings to earn the win, and Zach Duke earned the save to secure a shutout. Playing with a competitive team is making Owings’ second go-around with the Diamondbacks even more enjoyable.

Even though he entered that game in the third inning, he threw 71 pitches and allowed only two hits. Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson was particularly pleased with that outing afterward.

“That’s what we’ve seen from him in the past, and he did it again,” Gibson said in a postgame press conference. “He did a great job.”

This week, Owings gets a quick homecoming as Arizona visits the Braves for a three-game series starting Friday at Turner Field. Even though he’s not assured an appearance, he always likes the chance to play in front of family and friends.

“I always love getting to play in Atlanta,” Owings said.



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