Welcome back, slugger! Davidson returns, homers in 1st AB

April 22nd, 2022

WASHINGTON -- Seeking to bolster their lineup and plug a hole at the hot corner, the D-backs on Thursday turned to a familiar face -- albeit one they hadn’t seen in a while.

From Triple-A Reno, the club recalled slugging infielder Matt Davidson, a former blue-chip prospect who debuted with Arizona all the way back in 2013. Davidson seemed happy to be back in the desert: The reunion immediately paid dividends, as he homered in his first at-bat back with the club to pace the D-backs' 4-3 win over the Nationals.

“That’s exactly what we were looking for,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “It’s a nice feeling when you get recalled, you jump in and contribute right away. It helps you relax. And it was a big run.”

Davidson’s opposite-field first-inning solo shot off Nats lefty Josh Rogers was his way of celebrating his first appearance with Arizona in nine years, since the D-backs dealt him to the White Sox for Addison Reed in December 2013. It also marked his first big league homer since Aug. 21, 2020, with Cincinnati. He last homered for Arizona on Sept. 22, 2013 -- a 3,133-day gap. 

"It feels great to be back,” Davidson said. “I’m excited to be here. I’m just ready to play and give it a second chance.”

The homecoming became possible when the D-backs signed Davidson to a Minor League deal in March. He was one of the club’s last cuts this spring, and had been playing exclusively at first base and designated hitter at Reno, though he’ll play mostly third base with the big league club in the short-term. The D-backs are currently without starting third baseman Josh Rojas and are already crowded at first, with Seth Beer, Christian Walker and Pavin Smith all rostered and sharing at-bats at DH.

Davidson started at third Thursday, batting third in an Arizona lineup without regulars David Peralta and Daulton Varsho.

“We’ve been looking for someone like him to come in and help us out, especially against left-handed pitching,” Lovullo said prior to the game. “We’re excited about this opportunity for him. He’s earned this promotion.”

The callup marks Davidson's first big league opportunity since 2020, when he appeared in 20 games with the Reds. By that point, he was two years removed from the second of consecutive 20-plus-homer seasons in Chicago, during which he paired 46 homers with 330 strikeouts and a .291 on-base percentage from 2017-’18. He hasn’t found regular playing time since, bouncing between four organizations over the past four years and briefly experimenting as a two-way player.

These days he’s back to hitting full-time, and can still slug. Davidson showed no shortage of power at Triple-A, compiling 69 homers in 220 games since ’19. Everything seemed to come together for him in the Dodgers system last summer, when he hit .294/.365/.629 with 28 homers in 84 games at Triple-A Oklahoma. He was raking at Reno, batting .386 with eight homers and a 1.425 OPS through 11 games.

"I feel like I know my swing way better than I ever have,” Davidson, now 31, said. “Ever since I got non-tendered by the White Sox, I went on a couple-year journey of seeing everybody I could and re-doing my swing and I think last year was the culmination of that. I really like where my swing is at. I believe in it.”

Asked how his swing compares to his early years, Davidson estimated that it's “100 percent different,” saying he cringes at old video of it. It was a long, winding road back to the desert, but now Davidson can exemplify that growth in real time.

“I’m sure everybody can look back [at their old swing] and say ‘That thing sucked,’” he said. “But I look back and that thing sucked.”

In baseball, the chance to return home doesn’t come often. Not only were the D-backs Davidson’s first organization, but he planted roots in the desert during his initial tenure with the club. He now resides in the Phoenix area year-round, making the prospect of returning all the more appealing and Thursday all the more special.

“They were [always] my favorite team,” Davidson said. “I was a huge Randy Johnson fan. You get older, you get kids, you’re married and you’re not so much a fan boy anymore like you used to be. This is why I signed here, to play at home.”