Davidson learning plenty from mentor Konerko

After solid rookie season, 26-year-old continues to make strides in development

March 2nd, 2018

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Davidson's first full season in the Majors offered some tough learning experiences. He also had enough success -- 26 home runs, 16 doubles, 68 RBIs -- to convince himself that he belongs. Having played 462 games at Triple-A, that matters.

"Very satisfying," Davidson said. "That's what you want, to succeed at the highest level. It makes you hungry to do more. I think seeing results gives you confidence. Ultimately, I want to improve on that. I was glad I was able to show a little bit of what I can do. I feel like there's more to do."

The White Sox aren't sure if he'll play at third base or be a designated hitter. Davidson is happy to do either, but first must continue to refine the offensive part of his game.

He's off to a good start this spring, hitting .313 after walking in three plate appearances in Friday afternoon's 7-6 loss to the Dodgers. Walks are especially relevant, because Davidson's spring goal is to improve on his 37-percent strikeout rate and .260 on-base percentage.

"I think I was trying to hit too many pitches at one time," he said.

This is only partly about pitch recognition. Rather, it's stepping into the batter's box with the notion that he must look for one pitch and one pitch only. That's where scouting reports -- and past history -- play a role. Hitters are offered comprehensive data about pitch usage and situations, but it's up to each hitter to stay disciplined and not be caught straying mentally from his game plan.

"I think it's an art," Davidson said. "All the greatest hitters, that's something they have. I think a good starting point is staying in the zone that you want and being ready to hit that pitch only and not trying to hit too many pitches."

He's only 26 years old, and has 532 career Major League plate appearances under his belt. His performance in the Minors, including a .349 OBP at Triple-A in 2016, offers hope.

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Another positive thing is his work ethic. White Sox great Paul Konerko has become both a friend and a mentor. Like Konerko, Davidson spends hours in the batting cage perfecting his swing. Also like Konerko, Davidson has found a hitting guru in Sox hitting coordinator Mike Gellinger.

"I was a big fan of Konerko growing up, and it's a great privilege to work with Gellinger," Davidson said. "He and Konerko worked very closely together and are still really good friends today. I like a lot of the concepts he uses. It's really helped me with my career and my swing and that kind of thing."

And Konerko?

"The work ethic is the biggest thing," Davidson said. "He was constantly in the cage, always working on it. He would never settle for not perfecting his swing. We're kind of similar. I like to watch him hit and pick his brain. I'm fortunate to have him around and talk to him every once in a while."

Davidson was a pitcher for much of his time in high school in Yucaipa, Calif., converting to a hitting role relatively late. How about trying that two-way thing?

"I have enough to think about," he said. "Maybe if I'm hitting .330 with 40 [home runs] and 100 [RBIs] every year, I'll start thinking about it. That takes a lot of work just to do that. Hitting and defense is plenty enough to worry about."