Davis embracing data, new approach to improve

Slugger arrived early to Orioles camp, wants to rebound from subpar 2018

February 15th, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Looking to preempt questions about his work ethic in a nightmare 2018 season, reported to Spring Training in Florida more than a week before Orioles position players were required to. That's when his efforts to rebound hit their first minor snag.

Though Davis has been in the Sarasota area since last weekend, he had to wait until Friday to make his first appearance at O's camp due to a lingering case of bronchitis that has him "feeling pretty crappy right now." The illness has done little, though, to muddy Davis' resolve to put last season's struggles behind him.

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"The way my season when last year, there is going to be criticism, and rightfully so," Davis said. "The player who has been productive in the past is not gone. He didn't disappear. He is still here. I think, as far as my swing is concerned, I feel like I'm that player right now."

Now comes the challenge of showing everyone else. Davis' detractors ran the gamut last season, as his production plunged from All-Star level to what rated as one of the worst campaigns in baseball history. His statistics only tell part of the story. Davis was benched for long stretches, admittedly felt lost for others and endured pointed opinions from fans, teammates and even club employees regarding his preparation and effort.

After a second benching in September ended a season which he slashed .168/.243/.296 with a 50 OPS+, Davis returned home to Texas with "a lot of things I needed to address personally and professionally, a lot of things I needed to really change." He consulted sports psychologists, revamped his offseason workout program and vowed to embark on 2019 with a more open mind. Part of that includes embracing the kind of analytical data Davis said he'd been "so reluctant to read into or give any credit to for years.

"There is always going to be scrutiny, and going through it last year on a daily basis showed me how to go about dealing with that," Davis added. "There are things I want to prove to everyone, and even to myself."

Davis specified that motivation "would be geared more toward our fanbase" than the club's new front office, which has embraced him in their public comments. The reality is, they have little choice but to. The $92 million Davis is still owed roots him to the O's rebuilding roster. The first baseman figures to be a lightning rod until -- unless -- he returns to form.

"I just want him to be himself, and feel comfortable," manager Brandon Hyde said. "I want him to know he's a big part of this team."

Other arrivals

A host of other non-pitchers made their first appearances at the O's spring complex on Friday, with many participating in on-field batting practice at Ed Smith Stadium. Outfielders , , , and Mike Yastrzemski, as well as infielder , were among those on hand, swelling the number of early arrivals in Orioles camp to 14.

Worth noting

Left-hander is on a slightly altered scheduled than the other hurlers in camp this spring as he continues to rehab from left lat surgery. Bleier's original place in the first group of Orioles pitchers, who threw Wednesday, would've put him on track to throw again with that group on Friday. But he's being given an extra day of rest, with the plan for Bleier to throw a bullpen on Saturday. The session will mark Bleier's fifth since undergoing surgery last June, and his first throwing sliders.

Where can you watch?

The Orioles have announced their spring broadcast schedule, with all but one Grapefruit League game set to be available for fans in some fashion.

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Seven contests will be aired on MASN, beginning with the Orioles' Feb. 23 spring opener vs. Minnesota. The Orioles Radio Network and flagship station 105.7 The Fan will carry 13 more, and sixteen of the remaining 17 games will be carried live via audio-only streaming, exclusively on Orioles.com and MLB At Bat.

One addition to this year's broadcasts is MASNsports.com reporter Steve Melewski, who will call play-by-play for the 16-game digital slate. The Orioles Radio Network must still name a replacement for longtime play-by-play man Joe Angel, who announced his retirement this week.