How a former teammate helped bring Davis to Oakland

March 18th, 2024

MESA, Ariz. -- Déjà vu struck when he took third base and looked at the pitcher's mound just before his A’s debut in Sunday’s 3-3 tie against the White Sox and saw toeing the rubber at Hohokam Stadium.

Teammates on the Giants over the past two seasons, Davis and Wood are now reunited in Oakland after the club officially signed Davis to a one-year deal on Saturday.

“It brought back some old times,” Davis said.

It was rather fitting that Davis’ first game came with Wood on the mound. The left-hander, who inked a one-year deal with the A’s this offseason, played a role in recruiting Davis by spamming his phone with messages almost immediately after his release from the Giants earlier this week.

“I’ve texted him about every day for the last week before he signed hoping he would come here,” said Wood, who allowed one earned run on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts over five innings. “He didn’t give me much throughout the process but sent me a lot of memes. But I’m pumped to have him. He’s going to be great for our clubhouse.”

After weighing offers from several teams, Davis said Wood’s courting efforts played a factor in the decision-making process.

“Getting texts from [Wood] throughout the week wanting me to come here -- multiple guys texted me,” Davis said. “Just feeling that welcoming and that belonging here helped my decision to come here.”

Despite not playing in a Cactus League game since March 4, Davis did not show any signs of rust on Sunday, having continued working out in the Scottsdale area after being released. Davis took only one pitch from White Sox starter Nick Nastrini -- a ball that missed away -- before barreling up a 94 mph fastball to left-center field for a double in his first Spring Training at-bat in nearly two weeks.

“It felt great,” Davis said. “Man, 94 mph with some good spin out there, just to catch it out front and stay through that ball, it’s exactly what you want to do with that pitch. I was a little bit surprised. I haven’t seen that kind of velo in a minute. But I just got ready early, got a pitch to hit and stayed through it.”

It was a light day on defense for Davis, who exited the game after five innings as the A’s build back up his workload. The only action he saw came in the fourth, when he charged in on a chopping grounder by Eloy Jiménez and fired a strike to Ryan Noda at first base for the out.

Coming off a productive 2023 campaign with San Francisco in which he played a career-high 144 games and slashed .248/.325/.413 with 18 home runs, 23 doubles and 69 RBIs, Davis maintains the same high expectations he entered Spring Training with -- even if those come with a different uniform.

“I’m trying to win a Gold Glove. I’m trying to win a Silver Slugger. I’m trying to win MVP,” Davis said. “Those may be lofty expectations, but what are you going to do? I just want to be the best in the game. If it’s for one year or 10 years, I don’t really care. I’m striving to be my best and just be a good teammate in this clubhouse.”

Hernaiz still contending for spot
Davis’ arrival seemingly leaves Darell Hernaiz, Oakland’s No. 5 prospect, on the outside looking in for an Opening Day roster spot, but the recent development is not deterring the 22-year-old infielder from continuing his push.

After collecting another hit on Sunday, Hernaiz is hitting .308 (12-for-39) through 15 Cactus League games. Hernaiz, who had a .842 OPS in 131 games with Double-A Midland and Triple-A Las Vegas last year, continues to get regular playing time on the left side of the infield this spring, making a strong impression on the Major League staff with his glove and bat.

“He takes good, professional at-bats,” A's manager Mark Kotsay said. “He’s not looking to go up and just fire off a swing. He’s a hitter. I like the approach. I like the grinding mentality he has. He’s a tough out.”

Asked how the acquisition of Davis impacts the group of players who were competing at third base this spring, Hernaiz included, Kotsay said, “There’s still an opportunity. We have some time before we open the season. Roster things usually work themselves out. But they’re still in that mix to be a part of this club.”