Chris Owings was running to left field during a Saturday game in Toledo when teammates and coaches yelled at him from the dugout.
“I had actually thought somebody had gotten thrown out of the game, so they wanted me to change positions,” Owings said.
Instead, Owings’s Pawtucket teammates greeted him with high-fives. The Red Sox called up Owings while sending pitcher Hector Velazquez to Pawtucket.
That might have been the high point of the past 24 hours for Owings.
Owings, who has played in the majors for the Diamondbacks and Royals, made a less-than-inspiring debut with the Red Sox on Sunday against the Angels. The Sox inserted him into the leadoff spot as they gave outfielder Mookie Betts the day off, and Owings struggled.
Running on about three hours of sleep, he finished 0 for 5, striking out three times in the 5-4 loss.
The performance was a continuation of where Owings, who played second base Sunday, left off when he last played in the big leagues and why he was available for the Sox to sign to a minor league contract on June 17.
“I mean, it’s one game,” Sox manager Alex Cora said. “It’s just one game. That happens at the big league level.”
For Owings, it has happened far too often recently at the big league level.
The Royals designated him for assignment on May 31 after he finished with a .077 batting average over 12 games that month. In the game before the Royals moved on from him, he struck out four times in four plate appearances. He had not played in the majors since.
“That was a rough first two months,” Owings said pregame. “Basically, once I got that phone call and got let go from KC, it was just . . . I really took some time to figure out what I needed to do differently. The past two years have been a little tough, so I kind of went back to the drawing board and I think the results have paid off in the way I have been swinging the bat recently. Just kind of maybe understanding my swing a little bit better and being in a consistent groove as well.”
He entered Sunday’s game on a fairly consistent groove. He had been hitting well for Triple A Pawtucket over the 44 games in which he played. He registered a .325 batting average and hit 11 home runs, six of which came over six consecutive games in late July.
“I just think it’s more so not trying to do too much rather than trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Owings said.
He didn’t seem to follow that approach against the Angels. Owings struck out swinging each time.
Cora said there was no thought as to pinch-hitting for Owings. The Sox, however, made clear that they were willing to try different lineup alterations in the close game — Mitch Moreland and Brock Holt entered the game to pinch hit at different points. Betts, the player whom Owings replaced in the lineup, even entered as a pinch-runner.
Yet a struggling Owings made five plate appearances.
Cora said he didn’t regret giving Betts the day off, however. But now the Sox head into a road trip after splitting the series with the Angels. With a record of 62-58, they sit 7½ games back of the second wild card spot.
When Owings arrived in Boston after taking a 5:45 a.m. flight, he met with Cora in his office. It was there that Cora told Owings he would not only play but lead off against the Angels. Cora also gave a bigger-picture outlook.
“We’ve got a shot to go to the World Series and you are part of it,” Cora recalled telling Owings.
That shot sure felt like a distant one come end of the game Sunday. For Owings to have a chance to be part of a trip to the World Series, he will need to perform much better than he did against the Angels.
So will the Red Sox.