SHANKS: I know you got hurt last March 13th when you collided with Ovandy Suero. What happened there?
OWINGS: There was a fly ball, a line drive hit over shortstop, and I broke and dove for the ball and Suero didn’t see my dive and no one called it – there was no communication – and he dove right into the side of my face and broke my jaw clearly on both sides. I had my mouth wired shut for five weeks.
SHANKS: Then what happened?
OWINGS: I came down here to Orlando for about three weeks in Extended Spring Training and got 30 at bats. Then I went back to Rome and then the other injury happened. I went to Rome the first of June. I got hurt then on June 13th. I got walked and was on first. A guy hits a ground ball to shortstop. I was going to break up the double play. Then he boots it. In the middle of me trying to slide I tried to stand up and my ankle got caught in the ground and it twisted my ankle and ended up breaking the fibula in my leg cause of the stress it put on my ankle. It snapped my leg. It cracked. They didn’t see it right away. I told them my leg was popping. They couldn’t find a break because it was higher up. Then I got like 50 at bats down here and then they sent me to Danville to get my at bats in. And then in the offseason I ended up having ankle surgery. I had two bone spurs taken out. My bone spurs came from the injury in Rome. I came to Instructs and they sent me home. My ankle was hurting me the whole year.
SHANKS: These injuries have to be frustrating for you.
OWINGS: It is, but it’s not on my shoulders. I put all my worries upon him. It’s whatever happens, happens and if he wants me to play I’ll play.
SHANKS: Your career numbers are almost like one full season. So you’ve got to be curious as to what will happen when you get a full season?
OWINGS: I was frustrated, especially after I broke my jaw because I felt really good in spring training last year. That was frustrating. I got back to Rome where I wanted to be and then ended up breaking my leg, so I was really frustrated for a while. I ended up just working out hard and just hope I can stay healthy now from here on out.
SHANKS: It’s been fluky things, though.
OWINGS: It has been, but I love the game so I’m not going to change the way I play. I’m just going to be more aware of what’s going on. I’m always all out cause that’s the way I’ve been taught to play. That’s one of my advantages cause I’ve been taught to play hard everyday.
SHANKS: So when did you have your ankle surgery?
OWINGS: In November. It’s doing great. It was my left ankle. It’s still real swollen, but it’s going to stay that way. It doesn’t bother me at all. I wear a brace when we run bases. I feel great. I’m ready to roll.
SHANKS: You’ve always been pretty quick. Will this hurt that at all?
OWINGS: I ran down the line the other day and I felt like I was getting back to where I wanted to be. I felt like I was just as quick as I was before my injury.
SHANKS: So what’s your goal this year?
OWINGS: My goal is to get 500 at bats this year. Rome. Myrtle Beach. As long as I get my at bats, I don’t care where I start. It doesn’t matter to me as long as I go out and play. Shieldzie (Field Coordinator Tommy Shields comes around me and asks, ‘what’s our goal this year?’ And it’s ‘500 at bats.’ I don’t care how I get them as long as I get them. My goal is just to stay healthy.
SHANKS: And these guys don’t really know what you can do. Until you get those 500 at bats for yourself, they’re not going to know.
OWINGS: They don’t know, and I really don’t know either. I’ve put up my numbers in Danville, but I want to see what I can do higher up. I want them to see what I can do. I know what I’m capable of doing, but it’s about going out there and performing.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Email Bill at email@example.com.