Bucs' Davis homers in Double-A debut

May 11th, 2022

In his first Double-A plate appearance, Henry Davis got hit by a pitch. In his third, it nearly happened again.

Instead, Davis simply left the yard.

Baseball’s No. 23 overall prospect cranked a two-run homer to left field for his first Eastern League hit and reached base three times in his debut at the level as Altoona sank visiting Somerset, 4-3.

Following his HBP and a groundout in the third, Davis strode to the plate in the fifth with a runner on and two outs in a tie game. A 2-2 pitch from Somerset starter Jhony Brito came up and in. Davis wormed out of the way, and the ball ricocheted off of catcher Rodolfo Durán.

“I think they called it a foul ball,” Davis told area media after the game. “The [Curve] dugout thought I got hit, which, it was neither. It was just a ball. My body kind of screened the catcher. I mean, it’s happened to me a million times, like when a guy squares around to bunt, you can’t see the ball, and it gets by you.”

Not a hit batsman. Not a ball. Just a foul that extended Davis’ time at the plate.

“I felt pretty locked in that I didn’t let the call faze me,” he said. “It didn’t touch me, but I’m good enough, I don’t need every call. I didn’t complain. I got right back into it and put a good swing on the ball.

“Flip the page. Whether you’re catching or pitching or hitting, you’re not going to get every call, so it’s just [focusing on] the next pitch.”

The No. 2 Pirates prospect turned on the next offering from Brito and smoked it down the line at 110 mph off the bat, sneaking it just inside the left-field foul pole for a 407-foot two-run blast to put his team in front.

“I thought it was foul,” he said to laughs from the assembled media. “I couldn’t see it.”

Davis’ bat is one of the things that has tantalized Pirates fans most in his first full season. Drafted first overall out of Louisville in 2021, the catcher played in just eight games a year ago between the Rookie-level FCL Pirates and High-A Greensboro, batting .308/.387/.808. Starting this season back at Greensboro this year, he was just as impressive. Davis batted .341/.450/.585 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 22 games for the Grasshoppers before getting the bump to Double-A.

Another element of Davis’ growth is his defense, which also shined on Tuesday night in terrific battery work with No. 30 Pirates prospect Luis Ortiz. Though Ortiz only went 4 2/3 innings, the outing was his best of the year. The righty struck out eight and allowed just one run on one hit, throwing 51 of his 81 pitches for strikes. Departing with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Ortiz gave way to Enmanuel Mejia, who kept Somerset from breaking through with a strikeout of Brandon Lockridge, paving the way for Davis’ big blast in the bottom half.

“A big piece of me moving forward and a big component in my progress is being vocal in how to communicate with those guys,” Davis said of his relationship with his pitching staff. “I thought I did a good job with Ortiz who kind of just pitches like a bull out there. He’s 99 [mph] right at you, and he’s got a really good slider, so a couple times where he made really good pitches, what did he have, eight punchouts? You don’t need to do anything more. Do the same pitch. I felt like he did a really good job of that, really good job of repeating, and then Mejia picked him up in the last inning. That’s what good teams do.”

Duane Underwood Jr. and J.C. Flowers combined to deal the final four innings for Altoona with Flowers picking up the save, allowing two Patriots runs over three frames.

Batting out of the leadoff spot, Pittsburgh’s No. 19 prospect Jared Triolo was the only Curve player with multiple hits, singling three times and scoring a pair of runs.