Notes: Owings learning to go long

Notes: Owings learning to go long

SAN FRANCISCO -- The third time through the order hasn't been the charm for D-backs starter Micah Owings.

The rookie right-hander has pitched very well this year, going 5-2 with a 3.79 ERA, but if he's had any trouble, it's come when hitters see him for the third time in a game. From pitches 61-75, he holds opposing batters to a .222 average, but that jumps to .333 in pitches 76-90 and .414 in pitches 91-105.

Interesting numbers, to be sure, but whether they actually mean something is open for discussion. After all, Owings does have a 118-pitch complete game to his credit this year.

"That was a game where we had a little bit more of a lead," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said, referring to Arizona's 9-1 win over the Phillies. "When you're not getting any run support and every pitch means something, maybe you get a little more taxed. I don't think there's enough history on him yet that would show you have to go get him at a certain number."

There has always been some debate as to whether Owings would make a better reliever than a starter, but after watching him go a combined 16-2 at Double-A and Triple-A last season, the D-backs decided he would stay a starter unless he shows he can't handle it. So far, he's done just fine.

"Micah's trying to learn the league, he's trying to hold baserunners, he's doing all the little things that allow you to win, but it's a significant grind," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "He's trying to find what he needs to do to get through that last time through the lineup, and that's what the great ones do. But he's in his first year. He doesn't have to be a Hall of Famer yet. He doesn't have to establish himself as one of the best pitchers in the game yet.

"What he has to do is keep doing what he's doing. As he progresses and matures as a pitcher, as he gets to know the league and himself more, as he finds other ways to utilize his stuff, he's going to get better, but to give him 12 or 15 starts and say he's a reliever because his numbers go down after 95 to 110 pitches I think is unfair."

Don't forget Tony: Much has been made of Melvin having to find a way to get enough playing time for corner infielders Chad Tracy, Conor Jackson and Mark Reynolds, but Tony Clark also figures in.

The veteran first baseman was in the lineup Sunday to give Jackson a rest in a day game after a night game.

"As far as this whole rotation thing goes, he needs to play as well," Melvin said of Clark.

Get lost: At least one person in attendance Saturday night was not a fan of Jackson's.

Jackson said after Saturday night's game that as he was jogging off the field following the eighth inning, a baseball was thrown at him from the stands. When he picked up the ball, it was filled with profanities directed at him and his family.

"That was classless," he said.

Up next: The D-backs head to St. Louis after Sunday's game to open a four-game series with the Cardinals on Monday night.

Busch Stadium, the old one and the new one, have not been kind to the D-backs as they are 11-20 there in their history. Over the past three seasons, Arizona is 3-6 in St. Louis.

Brandon Webb will get the start for the D-backs on Monday against Braden Looper.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.