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More promising signs as O's Davis HRs again

@JoeTrezz
February 27, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. -- One week into Grapefruit League play, a surprise question has emerged in Orioles camp: Can anyone get Chris Davis out? Whether it’s real or not, nobody knows. But the embattled slugger is having a sensational early spring. It continued over the course of Thursday’s 13-0 drubbing of

SARASOTA, Fla. -- One week into Grapefruit League play, a surprise question has emerged in Orioles camp: Can anyone get Chris Davis out?

Whether it’s real or not, nobody knows. But the embattled slugger is having a sensational early spring. It continued over the course of Thursday’s 13-0 drubbing of the Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium, when Davis homered as part of another two-hit day to boost his exhibition numbers to almost comedic levels.

Davis is now hitting .800 with an .875 on-base percentage in Grapefruit League play, having collected two homers, two singles and three walks over eight plate appearances. The second homer came when Davis lined a Chris Stratton pitch over the left-center-field wall to lead off the fifth. He also singled through an overshifted right side of the infield earlier in the day.

Both of Davis’ homers this spring have gone the opposite way and came with two strikes.

"He looks like he’s really locked in and ready to swing the bat right now, and that’s what we want to see,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I told him before the base hit, there was a 1-1 swing that he fouled straight back. I told him I did not see a swing like that the entire season last year, or in Spring Training. And that was a foul ball. Then he gets a base hit, feels good and puts one out to left with a great swing.”

Spring stats are notoriously fickle, and Davis himself said earlier this month he didn’t feel pressure to get off to a hot start in camp despite everything that had come before. But this is certainly welcome for a player who admitted he considered walking away from the around $69 million in non-deferred money left on his contract at the end of last season, then added 25 pounds of muscle over the winter in hopes of reversing what’s been a precipitous decline. The former two-time MLB home run champ has hit .198 with a .679 OPS since signing his seven-year, $161 million deal before the 2016 season, including a .172 average with a .564 OPS over the past two summers.

If those struggles continue once games start to count, it seems likely Davis would be at the center of a roster crunch once top prospects Yusniel Díaz and Ryan Mouncastle – who also raked Thursday – reach the Majors. He spoke passionately upon arriving to camp about his desire to remain an everyday player (Davis was not available for comment after the game Thursday). It’s still very early in spring, and an ultra small sample, but right now, he looks like one.

“It’s not his swing path that looks different,” Hyde said. “It’s the aggressiveness in the box, the presence in the box. You can tell in his takes that he is in swing mode and he is letting his vision of the ball and strike zone awareness stop him on pitches outside the zone. But he’s ready to hit every pitch.”

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.