SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Officially, Chris Owings singled in four at-bats in an Arizona Diamondbacks ‘B’ game against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday at Salt River Fields.
It marked his first spring game, signaling the unofficial start of a new swing approach at the plate.
“I’ve been a finisher with one hand my whole career,” he said. “Now I’m trying to do two hands, and I think that is a big adjustment.”
The adjustment, which Owings has worked on extensively in batting practice, became necessary, both he and the D-backs believe, following offseason shoulder surgery.
Keeping two hands on the bat on his follow-through across the zone will help ease pressure on the shoulder.
“That’s the main thing,” he said. “It’s just that long backswing that I’ve had before and just trying to shorten it up and keeping two hands on the bat limits that movement. That’s one of the big things that I’ve been focusing on ever since I’ve been coming back. I think it’s been helping out.”
Owings hurt the left shoulder last June on a play at the plate. And when rest and strengthening exercises didn’t work, he underwent surgery on the labrum in a procedure performed by Dr. James Andrew on Oct. 2.
Since spring training began, the D-backs have been cautious with Owings, bringing him along slowly. Only after twice facing live pitching in batting practice did the team decide to insert him into a game.
“It was good,” he said. “It was just good to get out there and play a real game. I’ve just been sitting around watching all these guys get in there and get some action. It’s fun to get out there and compete a little bit.”
Owings laced a single up the middle in his first at-bat, drew a four-pitch walk in his second and then reached base two more times on an error and fielder’s choice. He played five innings, fielding his only two plays at shortstop cleanly.
“It was good to get out there and just play the game, not hesitate, take full swings, get some ground balls, slide at home,” said Owings, who scored three runs. “Those are all things that I just got to do for the first time and get out of the way.”
Standing on second base with one out in the second inning, Owings raced around third and scored on a fielding error by the Reds’ second baseman. He slid into home ahead of the throw in a play somewhat similar to when he hurt the shoulder.
“Just trying to pretty much just not think about it I think is the biggest thing,” said Owings, adding he needs to clear a mental hurdle rather than a physical one. “It was a freak accident when it really happened, so it’s just getting comfortable doing everything again and just not having it in the back of my head.”
The plan, according to Owings, is to take Friday off and then play another ‘B’ game or perhaps make his Cactus League debut this weekend, giving him yet another opportunity to work on his swing in a game setting.
“I’ve tried to do two hands before and it just didn’t feel right,” he said. “But now since I started over, kind of like starting from scratch, it has been a lot easier to do it. It felt funny doing it the first week or so, but after that I kind of stuck with it. I think it’s been a good adjustment.”