PITTSBURGH -- Pitching on the road against a division rival can be a hostile situation. Boos may rain down from the crowd when your name is called. You strike someone out or get out of a jam, and few people are often there to give you encouragement. Show any emotion and who knows what could happen.
For Rookie Davis, that role is a joy.
“Going on the road, getting booed, quieting a loud crowd on a Friday night: that’s what I play for,” Davis said. “If you don’t enjoy that, you’re not in the right business.”
So Davis is embracing the start he’ll get on Friday at Miller Park, his first start since joining the Pirates on a Minor League contract this February. Davis has made four relief appearances with the Bucs this year, allowing five earned runs over 7 2/3 innings, with eight strikeouts and three walks.
Davis last started a Major League game with the Reds in 2017, his first season in the big leagues. It was a struggle, though, as he put up an 8.63 ERA over six starts and one relief outing. His toughest start came at Miller Park against the Brewers, who chased him after 2 2/3 innings, scoring eight runs (seven earned) on 11 hits and one walk.
“I have one start in Miller Park, and it’s not good,” Davis said. “So to me, to go back and face a lot of the same guys as I did, it’s going to be fun.”
Even before starting his second year of service time, Davis has already been driven to the point of questioning himself. Last season, he underwent surgery on his right hip, and he said he’s still not back to 100 percent. Davis never made it back to the mound for the Reds before he was granted free agency in November. He underwent a grueling offseason training regimen to get himself mound ready, which has paid off this season so far.
So confronting those doubts and overcoming them helps to explain why Davis said Friday's start “is the easy part” of his journey thus far.
“I’m a very proud person, so for me to have those thoughts, I couldn’t give up on myself,” Davis said. “Getting over that, and then fighting my way back here, that was the hard part. Tomorrow’s fun.”
Davis’ mentality won’t change from reliever to starter -- “just get the guy out however you have to” -- and he’s not thinking into the future, whether it be during a start or during the coming weeks.
“Whenever you’re a starter and you try to think too far into the game or you’re three days out, two days out, you start worrying about what guys are going to be in there -- you’re not going to be successful that way,” Davis said.
There are no nerves, no anxiety or anything like it for Davis ahead of his debut start with the Pirates. How could there be from a guy who likes to play the villain?
And as many of his teammates dress as superheros around him during a themed flight to Milwaukee, Davis will sit in his seat with the threatening guise of Bane, the evil mastermind in “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises,” as he hopes to wreak some havoc on the Brewers’ lineup the next day.
“It’s fitting,” Davis said. “I’ll have fun with it.”
Dickerson joins flight to Milwaukee
After the Pirates’ 6-1 win on Thursday afternoon, Corey Dickerson was back in the team’s clubhouse and said he was making the trip to Milwaukee. He had just 13 at-bats before he hit the 10-day injured list on April 4 with a posterior right shoulder strain, then was transferred to the 60-day IL after facing a setback.
Dickerson’s return date is still to be determined, as he said he’s still working details out with manager Clint Hurdle. He went 6-for-33 with one double in his rehab stint with Triple-A Indianapolis, but he said he’s feeling confident now after getting his reps, especially at the plate.
“I felt really comfortable defensively,” Dickerson said. “I felt like it was just going to take a little time offensively to get my feet under me, see some pitches.”
Dickerson was arguably the best all-around player for the Pirates last season, batting .300 with an .804 OPS while winning a Gold Glove Award in left field. His impending return will shake up the outfield situation and may lead to less playing time for Bryan Reynolds, who has opened eyes with his 14-game hitting streak and a .346 batting average.