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Davis' hard work pays off with spot on roster

Ninth-ranked Astros prospect became emotional after hearing news
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A year ago, J.D. Davis looked across the clubhouse and saw Alex Bregman, the Astros' up-and-coming star who figured to be entrenched at third base for a decade. A few lockers down was Colin Moran, another high Draft pick who was headed to Triple-A as the starting third baseman.

That meant Davis was headed back to Double-A Corpus Christi, where he spent the entire 2016 season and hit 23 homers with an .818 OPS. His path to the big leagues blocked, Davis knew it wasn't time for a pity party. Davis crushed it at Double-A again last year, performed well in his first taste of Triple-A and earned a big league call up. He hit four homers in 24 games and watched from home when the Astros won the World Series.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A year ago, J.D. Davis looked across the clubhouse and saw Alex Bregman, the Astros' up-and-coming star who figured to be entrenched at third base for a decade. A few lockers down was Colin Moran, another high Draft pick who was headed to Triple-A as the starting third baseman.

That meant Davis was headed back to Double-A Corpus Christi, where he spent the entire 2016 season and hit 23 homers with an .818 OPS. His path to the big leagues blocked, Davis knew it wasn't time for a pity party. Davis crushed it at Double-A again last year, performed well in his first taste of Triple-A and earned a big league call up. He hit four homers in 24 games and watched from home when the Astros won the World Series.

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On Thursday afternoon at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Davis will be introduced along with the rest of his Astros teammates prior to the Opening Day game against the Texas Rangers. Astros manager AJ Hinch told Davis, who is ranked the organization's No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline, in the dugout in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday he had made the club following a strong spring.

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"I was shocked, man," Davis said Sunday. "I was emotional. He told me 15, maybe 20 minutes right before the game when we were about to go out to stretch. I was close to tearing up a little bit. He called me over in the middle of the dugout and just told me I made the roster and he's happy that I made the team and he expects a lot out of me, playing first base, left field and third base, and just happy to be here."

Davis, who weighed in at a svelte 220 pounds Sunday, started in left field in Sunday's Grapefruit League finale against the Marlins but will play primarily first base and third base. A spot on the 25-man roster opened up because Yuli Gurriel will be suspended five games to start the season, and Davis beat out AJ Reed and Tyler White.

"You could see a sense of relief and also a sense of pride he made the team, and a little bit of emotion," Hinch said. "He's not a big emotion guy. I kind of dropped it on him in the dugout before the game and then he went out and hit a line drive off [Red Sox starter Chris] Sale, so it obviously didn't bother him."

The hardest part about Saturday was Davis couldn't share the exciting news until he was done playing. When he came out of the game in the sixth inning, he called his father, Greg, in Sacramento, Calif. He called his mother, Maryjo, who was with his brother, Ben, an offensive lineman at the University of Minnesota.

"My brother screamed," Davis said. "It was a cool moment for all the family. I called my agent and I called my girlfriend when I got out. I hoped [the game] didn't last three hours. It was a cool moment."

Davis knows his time in the big leagues to start the year might be brief. Gurriel, who had left hand surgery Feb. 28, is making quick progress and might not need to start the year on the disabled list. The earliest he can play following his suspension is April 3 against the Orioles.

"Starting out [last year] with a Double-A assignment wasn't a spot where I wanted to go," Davis said. "I felt I earned the right to go up to Triple-A. I just felt like it was an opportunity for me to either crumble at that moment or keep my head up and keep working hard and baseball will reward me. I just kept my head up and I got better."

Brian McTaggart. has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

J.D. Davis