09/24/12 11:58 AM ET
Playing every day a huge boon for Davis
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
When a recent visitor to the Orioles' clubhouse went from player to player, asking for free associations on certain topics, the answers revealed that this is a unit in agreement on at least one subject.
The phrase each player was given: "Chris Davis' power."
Manny Machado: "Ridiculous."
J.J. Hardy: "Stupid."
Nate McLouth: "Texas strong."
Steve Johnson: "Hulk."
And then, with striking specificity worthy of his status as a veteran team leader, there was Adam Jones:
This much about Davis -- the Longview, Texas-born-and-bred first baseman, designated hitter, sometimes outfielder, one-time winning pitcher and breakout star in 2012 -- is known: He is 6-foot-3, he weighs 230 pounds and he can hit a baseball a loooong way.
Take last week in Oakland, before a game against the A's. During batting practice, Davis launched one that broke a luxury-suite window high above and way beyond the center-field wall. Hardy recalls Davis calmly depositing nine balls in a row onto the grass berm beyond the wall in center in Arlington during one BP session.
And this year, in his first Major League season with more than 400 at-bats, Davis has 26 home runs and a .467 slugging percentage. For a guy who couldn't seem to find his way out of a logjam at first base while coming up with Texas, the July 2011 trade that sent him and pitcher Tommy Hunter to Baltimore for reliever Koji Uehara has been the perfect change of scenery.
"It means a lot, knowing I'm going to be in the lineup every day, whether it's DHing, playing the outfield, playing first," Davis said. "It's big. Whenever you struggle at a young age and you constantly worry about whether you're going to be in there the next day, it puts a lot of pressure on you to go out and perform that day. It's been huge for me to come over here and play every day, and do so on a winning team."
Davis could never get that certainty in Texas. Although he was always viewed as a big-time power prospect, the Rangers had others clogging up the works. There was Justin Smoak. There was Mitch Moreland. There was Mike Napoli. And after the Rangers toyed with the idea of moving Davis to third, they went out and signed Adrian Beltre.
Davis struck out too much -- 150 times in 391 at-bats in 2009 and 63 times in 199 at-bats last year -- and it seemed as though each whiff would get him closer to being sent back to Triple-A, clearing way for the next hot prospect in the Rangers' system.
Davis is a fixture in Baltimore's lineup now, though. And although he still strikes out a lot (156 times entering Monday's doubleheader), the Orioles understand that's his game. Davis wil miss balls, but when he doesn't miss them, he really doesn't miss them.
"I think what he understands is that it's not an open-ended ticket," manager Buck Showalter said. "Hopefully, we're raising the bar in that sometimes it's just not good enough. As a pitcher or a position player, we will shuffle the deck. He knows that. And I think he also knows that he's getting an opportunity in the big picture and he's got to be ready. He's been ready.
"He's in a good place. I think he knows that people really get him here."
Part of getting Davis is watching some of the things that can happen when he simply lets his talent and athletic ability flow.
The Orioles knew what he could do with the bat, but they didn't know about the rest of his game until May 6, when he volunteered to pitch in the 16th inning of a 6-6 tie against the Red Sox in Fenway Park.
Davis went out throwing hard -- harder than anyone imagined he could.
"He helped us out there," catcher Matt Wieters said. "That was probably more shocking than the year he's having offensively, the way he was able to come in there and actually have pretty good stuff.
"I was impressed when I saw the first reading was 89 and then 91. I was like, 'Really?'"
Really. Davis threw two shutout innings and got the win. And when he hit three homers in a game in August, he became the third player with a three-homer game and a win as a pitcher in the same season since 1900, according to Elias Sports Bureau. One of the other two was Babe Ruth.
And on Tuesday night, in the middle of the Orioles' longest game of the year, an 18-inning marathon against the Mariners in Seattle, it was Davis' two-run single in the ninth inning that tied it, allowing Baltimore to win nine innings later and extend its streak of extra-innings victories to 14. The O's won the next night in 11 innings to make it 15.
"He can play," Jones said. "He's been good for this team, obviously, for what he can do on the field, but him as a person, he just has a great personality that fits in with this team. And I think that helps him on the field. It allows him to be himself. That's what you need to play."
Davis seems to agree. He says he's not bitter about what happened in Texas, just thankful to be where he is now. Davis says that hitting coach Jim Presley has helped him realize that there are good at-bats waiting to happen in the aftermath of a bad one.
"It's just knowing I'm going to get four or five at-bats every day," Davis said. "There's games you go out there and you just don't feel good, you're not seeing the ball well, and you have a bad day, and those are the days that you know that if you're playing every day, you're going to get another chance tomorrow. If you're not playing every day, it's hard to go out there.
"I think it's the beauty of the game to know that you can continue to work hard and continue to put yourself in a position to succeed, and things are going to work out."