SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Chris Davis says he’s made changes in his swing that fans will spot right away. Whether they produce better results, that’s what the Baltimore Orioles slugger and his team want to see.
Stuck in a years-long slump, three weeks shy of his 35th birthday and still in the midst of a rich contract, Davis is beginning another season in hopes of recapturing what he used to be at the plate.
Or anything even close.
“I felt like I was letting our fans down. That was a big deal to me. It took a lot out of me,” Davis said in a video call Friday from camp in Sarasota, Florida.
The major league home run champion with 53 in 2013 and 47 more in 2015, Davis has batted under .200 in each of the last three years as the strikeouts continued to pile up. In there, too, was a record 0-for-54 drought.
Davis hit just .115 (6 for 52) without a home run and only one RBI in 16 games last season while slowed by knee trouble. The poor performance came after he got off to good start in spring training, hitting .409 (9 for 22) with three homers and nine RBIs before baseball was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.
When the regular season began in late July, Davis was unable to duplicate what he’d done months earlier in exhibitions.
“Last spring was an eye-opener,” Davis said. “It was, ‘OK, I can still do this.’ I was frustrated with the way things played out last season, to say the least. I felt like I came into spring training in great shape.”
“I was really swinging the bat well, and then everything stopped, but I also understand that we did get a chance to play some games, and there were a lot of things bigger than baseball going on,” he said.
In the sixth season of a $161 million, seven-year contract that has limited Baltimore’s roster flexibility, Davis realizes he’s not guaranteed a spot in the lineup.
“Every year of my career, I approached spring training to compete for at-bats,” he said. “That’s really how I think any player should approach it because if you come in thinking it’s your job and you don’t have to do anything, you’re not doing yourself or anybody in the clubhouse any favors.”
Manager Brandon Hyde said Davis would get his chances.
“I think he’s going to play quite a bit,” Hyde said. “I’m going to give him as many at-bats as I possibly can. I’m going to treat him like everybody else and play him as much as possible and get him to feel comfortable going into the season.”
Davis, with 295 home runs for Texas and the Orioles over 13 years, has played first base and been a designated hitter. Trey Mancini is back this year after having surgery for colon cancer and figures to be Baltimore’s first baseman.
Hoping to reverse his recent results, Davis said he’s made mechanical adjustments to his swing. He didn’t detail what he’d done, but said the changes would be apparent.
“You’ll see it. It will be visible to the naked eye,” he said.
Traded from Texas to Baltimore during the 2011 season, he was part of an Orioles team that won 96 games and the AL East in 2014. The last four years, Baltimore has been near the bottom of the division.
With a lot of new players around him, Davis would like to be part of the turnaround.
“Give them an idea of what winning baseball was like in Baltimore, and what it can be like in the future,” he said.
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