Chris Owings went 75 days in between playing games for the Rockies after what he called a “freak accident” derailed a promising start to his season.
His long-awaited return following left thumb surgery arrived Wednesday in Colorado’s road victory at the Seattle Mariners. Owings, beaming with anticipation before the game, said: “I’m excited. … It feels like forever since I got hurt, right?”
Still, it appears rekindling Owings’ early-season magic — the veteran hit.533 over his first seven games — will require time. He went 0-for-4 on Wednesday as the team’s designated hitter.
“A rough day for (Owings) and a couple of guys,” manager Bud Black. “But prior to his injury, he was probably our most productive player. It was a pretty small sample size. But he’s a veteran player. He’s very versatile. I love the fact that he can play the infield and play the outfield.”
Owings recalled the moment that caused his injury. On April 9, playing at the San Francisco Giants, he fouled off a pitch that caused his bat grip to loosen.
“It was weird,” Owings said. “I took a swing, my top hand kind of came off the bat, and pulled that left thumb back. I was able to finish the at bat. But I got to third and it was moving around in ways that it’s not supposed to be. It just didn’t get any better in the week that we were on the road. I got an MRI when we got back and it was definitely some bad news with a tear.”
Owings was grateful the injury affected his glove hand, allowing him to retain strength in his throwing arm over the surgery rehab process. He said the toughest part was regaining the thumb strength and flexibility to catch baseballs effectively. A five-game stint in Triple-A Albuquerque — alternating between outfield, second base and shortstop — allowed Owings to recover that confidence.
“It’s just making sure that I’m able to control and hold onto that bat with that bottom hand,” Owings said. “I don’t feel like there is anything that is lingering or even that I’m thinking about out there. I’ve been taking a ton of swings, so I’m pretty confident with where it’s at and how I’ve been feeling.”
His first game back in a Rockies uniform did not produce immediate results. But Colorado remains confident Owings will be a major contributor moving forward.
“He’s got a little bit of power,” Black said. “He’s a veteran player who comes to the park every day and knows how to play the game. I think that’s going to be good for a lot of our younger players. We’ll get him in there. It’s a long year. All these fellas know … we’re going to bounce these guys around.
“We’re going to play them all, keep them fresh, look for good matchups, play the hot hand, and all those things. (Owings) is in that mix.”
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