07/31/11 1:00 AM ET
O's get Texas' Davis, Hunter for Uehara
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
"I already bought a hat and a T-shirt," joked Davis who, along with Hunter, sees going from a contending club to the last-place Orioles as an opportunity to be part of the growing young core of a long-suffering franchise.
"It really does feel like a fresh start and a legitimate opportunity to play every day at the big league level," Davis said in a phone interview with MLB.com. "I'm excited about it."
"What was attractive to us was two 25-year-olds who we have under our control for several seasons that have already experienced success at the Major League level," Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, said of the trade, which sent reliever Koji Uehara and $2 million cash to Texas. "The things that really appealed to us were youth, control and flexibility."
In acquiring Davis and Hunter, the Orioles have filled two of their biggest needs, adding a superb defender at the corner infield spot and a Major League-caliber starter to help stabilize an erratic rotation.
Davis had bounced around for the Rangers, playing third base and the outfield, but he is most comfortable at first base, a position he is expected to take over after the trade of Derrek Lee to Pittsburgh late Saturday night.
A native of Texas, Davis was the Rangers' fifth-round Draft pick in 2006 and, after a relatively quick ascent through the Minors, made his Major League debut in 2008, hitting .285 with 17 homers, 55 RBIs and a .549 slugging percentage. But he has struggled to regain that level, and has been sent down and called up six times since serving as the Rangers' Opening Day first baseman in 2009.
"I never really had a lot of adversity [in the Minor Leagues]," Davis said. "Then when '09 started, I was striking out three times a game. I would either hit home runs or strike out there, and it was something that was tough for me to deal with, and it was something I had to learn how to handle. Every player has to go through that adversity."
Davis has destroyed Triple-A pitching, hitting .337 with a .397 on-base percentage and .609 slugging percentage in 226 games. This season he was hitting .368 with 24 home runs, 66 RBIs and an .824 slugging percentage in just 48 games at Round Rock, prompting Hunter to dub his teammate "an absolute beast."
"He's going to be good," Hunter said of Davis, whom he got to watch light up Minor League pitching while rehabbing a right groin strain earlier this year. "He definitely has the capability to be a superstar if he gets the chance."
Hunter will also have a plum chance in Baltimore, where he is expected to be inserted into the rotation to help stabilize a group headed by Jeremy Guthrie. Winner of 13 games as a starter for the Rangers last year, Hunter strained his right groin at the end of Spring Training, missed three months and was never able to regain his spot a crowded rotation, prompting the Rangers to use him in middle relief.
"I would definitely still consider myself a starter," said Hunter, who went 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA in eight relief appearances and admitted to being "blindsided" by Saturday's trade.
"It was definitely one of those things where you look at it and, at first, you wonder what you didn't do. You start to question, 'Am I not good enough or something?'" he said. "It's definitely a shock, I don't know how else to put it. I was drafted by this team, I came up through their organization. We went to the World Series last year, and now I'm getting traded. It's different. It's definitely something that I didn't think about. But it's an opportunity, and that's how I look at it."
Hunter cited his prior relationship with Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair -- his first pitching coach in the Minors -- as a positive, and is also excited to be reunited with first-base coach Wayne Kirby, a former Texas Minor League instructor.
As for manager Buck Showalter and the rest of the staff, "I've heard nothing but good things," Hunter said, "So I'm excited. I'm ready to go."
"Baltimore was interested in acquiring a controllable young starter, and Tommy has shown he can get the job done," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said of Hunter, who recorded a 3.73 ERA in 22 starts last season. "Except for a couple of minor injuries, he has shown he can get the job done. He's durable, he throws strikes and has a good makeup."
Hunter and Davis are expected to meet the Orioles in New York for Sunday's series finale against the Yankees. With Lee gone, Davis could make his debut, although Hunter's availability -- he has thrown 6 2/3 innings in the last seven days -- is undecided.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.