The two men had a good working relationship, especially during Owings' rookie year in 2007. That season he was 8-8 with a 4.30 ERA, but was among rookie leaders with 106 strikeouts in 152 2/3 innings and 14 quality starts.In 2008, Owings began 4-0 in four starts, but slipped to 6-9 with a 5.93 ERA before he was demoted to Triple-A. By August, he was traded to the Reds in the Adam Dunn deal. "Micah has always been a guy that wants to accumulate information," Price said. "For some guys, that's terrific. For other guys, it's overload. He got to the point where he was trying to absorb so much information that it became mental overload. We're trying to simplify it -- our game plan, our goals and let his natural aggression take care of the pitching part of his job." "He's a great pitching coach and a great guy to relate to when I got to spend time with him in Arizona," Owings said of Price. "He gets serious when it's time to get serious, but he'll also cut up with you. He treats each pitcher as an individual and tries to help him as much as he can. He's great with going through scouting reports every game, and that wasn't just for me." Owings is competing against Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman for the fifth spot, along with Justin Lehr, Matt Maloney, Travis Wood, Mike Lincoln and Kip Wells. For Owings, last season's results could follow him in the decision-making process regarding the fifth spot. So could his hitting ability. As a starting pitcher, he could pinch-hit between starts. But as a reliever, he could pinch-hit and remain in the game as a long reliever -- which would preserve the bullpen because Owings can bat for himself the next time around. Lifetime, Owings is a .300 hitter with eight home runs and 31 RBIs. He hit three homers for the Reds last season, including one vs. the Cardinals in the bottom of the ninth that sent a game into extra innings. The team's best right-handed pinch-hitter at times, he also won an April game vs. the Astros with a pinch-hit, two-run double. There was a danger to exposing a pitcher to hitting. On Sept. 6 at Atlanta, Owings was beaned by a pitch and sustained a perforated eardrum. He appeared in only three more games the rest of the season. "This guy is completely 100 percent invested in being a pitcher," Price said. "The fact that he can hit and add value to the team from an offensive perspective, forces you to acknowledge the need for him to work on it." Owings never complained about being demoted to a bullpen role last season, and he is willing to think big picture should it happen to him again after the spring competition sorts itself out. "I take the standpoint of whatever I can do to help these guys and the team," he said. "I'm looking long term. I don't just want to be here one year and the next year. I want to get to a consistency point where I can stick around for 10-15 years."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.