Davis seeks to give Orioles their money's worth in 2019
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
Few players in major league history delivered less bang for the big bucks than Chris Davis in 2018.
The two-time home run champion batted .168 with 192 strikeouts for the Baltimore Orioles before being benched in September following a 1-for-37 skid. His 16 homers and 49 RBIs were his fewest since 2011, and his .296 slugging percentage ranked last among 141 qualifiers.
Entering the fourth season of a $161 million, seven-year contract, Davis knows there likely is nowhere to go but up.
"Anything above what I did last year, I guess would be considered successful," he said. "But the goal is getting back to the player that I was in 2013, 2012, 2015, years I was productive. Just being a threat in the lineup, a guy who produces runs, who his teammates can count on."
Davis had 33 homers and 85 RBIs with Baltimore in 2012, then led the majors in 2013 with 53 long balls and 138 RBIs. He slipped a bit the following season but rebounded in 2015 with 47 home runs and 117 RBIs.
That earned him the biggest contract in franchise history, but his power numbers have dwindled in each of the past three seasons. He hit bottom last year with the worst batting average by a qualifier in major league history.
The rebuilding Orioles can't trade the 32-year-old Davis because he's making too much money. So they can only hope he gets his stroke back.
"I want to give him every opportunity to have the years that he had in the past," rookie manager Brandon Hyde said. "You just don't have the years he's had by chance. There's something there you tap into. I know that he's hungry and ready to start the year."
Davis went hitless in his first four at-bats this spring, striking out three times, before going deep against Tampa Bay on Tuesday - his first home run since Aug. 24. Working with new hitting coach Don Long, Davis feels like he's getting a fresh start.
"I think it's a positive, to be honest with you," he said. "I think it's a good chance for me to reset and kind of regroup and put really the last couple of years behind me and just move forward."
As a concession to his age, Davis cut back on his weightlifting during the offseason and stayed on a strict diet.
"Everybody keeps telling me I look skinny, so I guess that's a compliment," he said. "I feel more ready this time than I did last year. That's saying a lot, because I felt like I was going to have a really good year last year going into spring training. I'm ready to put last year behind me and start this season."
He also worked on getting back the confidence and swagger he carried during his finest seasons in the big leagues.
"I was searching for a certain feeling, a feeling I've had my whole life that I for some reason have lost touch with it over the past couple years," he said. "Going through last season, going through that stretch of failure day in and day out, got me to the point of, OK, now we have to exhaust all options and take a step back and make an adjustment.
"I made a lot of changes this offseason. I was talking to a lot of people, people that I hadn't seen in a decade but knew me at a younger age when I was in the Rangers' minor league system. I feel like it just kind of opened me up."
Davis hopes his work with Long will help him succeed against the shift. By vacating the left side of the infield and puting a fielder in short right field, opponents have denied the left-handed pull hitter countless potential hits.
"It's definitely taken a toll on me," Davis said. "It's killing me as far as my average is concerned."
No shift can handle a ball hit over the fence, and Davis is convinced he will return to form.
"I still feel like I'm at the top of my game," he said. "I'm looking forward to a chance to redeem myself."
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Updated February 28, 2019