Former pitcher Owings at the bat for Nats

VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander Micah Owings will not pitch for the Nationals this year; he will play first base and the outfield. Owings was one of the best-hitting pitchers in the big leagues. He is a career .283 hitter with nine home runs, 35 RBIs and a .502 slugging percentage in 219 plate appearances.

Before abandoning his craft as a pitcher, Owings spoke to Rick Ankiel and Brian Bogusevic, two players who started their careers as pitchers before becoming outfielders. According to Owings, they encouraged him to make the switch. Owings also said he relied on his faith in God to make the change.

"I had some success in the league as a pitcher. I was very fortunate and blessed by that," Owings said. "But I feel I have some more talent in me that I want to challenge myself with. I want to contribute to a team, in this case the Nationals. Fortunately, I have an opportunity and let's see what happens. I just want to get my full potential out and see where it goes."

Asked if he would miss pitching on the mound, Owings said, "That is a tough one. At this stage, I've been fortunate with the time that I've had in the league. At this point, I would say I'm going to put my focus into [hitting]. But at the same time, I miss hitting when I was pitching. I just enjoy competing. I'm around great guys that are driven to win and have fun playing together. Our goal is to go to the World Series."

Owings, 30, spent the 2012 season with the Padres, but pitched in only six games because of an arm injury. He started his career with the D-backs, selected by current Nats general manager Mike Rizzo in the third round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. In six years, Owings is 32-33 with a 4.86 ERA.