Davis putting in the work to catch on at catcher

January 7th, 2024

This story was excerpted from the Pirates Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PITTSBURGH --  knew from his exit meetings after the 2023 season what his offseason focus would be. The Pirates wanted him to become the full-time Major League catcher they knew he could be.

Davis began his big league career with 417 1/3 innings of work in right field compared with only two innings behind the plate in 2023. The organization saw his counterpart, Endy Rodríguez, as the more polished defensive catcher when the two were called up within a month of each other. 

But with Rodríguez out for the season due to UCL surgery and a flexor tendon repair in his right arm, there’s a clear path for Davis to get the bulk of the reps behind the plate alongside Jason Delay.

“The matter of fact is, injuries can happen at any time,” Davis said. “I was injured last year. I've been injured in the past. People get hurt all the time. We put our bodies on the line every day, so there's a situation where you've got to be prepared to pivot.”

Davis has been preparing for this opportunity long before it arose. He caught bullpens last season and worked behind the scenes to get acclimated to the Pirates’ pitching staff, which he said has been the biggest focus for him instead of one facet of defense in particular.

“I know there's a lot of different ways and certain things are easier to measure than others, but at the end of the day, I'll grade myself on if guys want to throw to me or not, and that's a really good indicator of if you can really get on the same page as a guy,” he said.

In addition to his workouts and general work, Davis has split time between two important areas: Driveline in Kent, Wash., and the Pirates’ complex in Bradenton, Fla.

How much has Driveline helped? 

"More than I thought it would, honestly,” Davis said. “I kind of always look for … things as a player to get an edge or get a percent. But it's kind of blown me away, I've been very happy with it." 

Being in Bradenton has allowed him to catch big league guys who have visited the complex this offseason, as well as such up-and-comers as the Pirates’ No. 1 prospect, Paul Skenes, who is seen as being able to reach the big league club in 2024 if he’s healthy. Both Davis and Skenes were No. 1 overall Draft picks by the Pirates in 2021 and 2023, respectively, so their first time as a pitcher-catcher battery will be a momentous occasion in Pittsburgh.

"He's great,” Davis said of Skenes. “He's super intense. A winner." 

Going around the country, putting in the extra work, holding himself to a high standard: Those are just a few things that make Davis who he is. He’s taken on new positions and worked hard in the background to have the opportunity he has this season. And when you’re wired like Davis, the extra work hardly feels like work.

“It's a privilege. I'm blessed by God to play this game, truly,” Davis said. “Dreamed of it every moment since I was a kid and really worked for it. So, while I'm here, [I’m] doing everything I can to stay here as long as I can.”