There was so little intrigue with what began as spring training and evolved into summer boot camp for the Orioles that their highest profile player, and the one with the biggest contract, had become almost the forgotten fixture in the lineup.
And some wondered how much longer Chris Davis would hold that fixture notation.
The last three years had given scant indication there was anything left in the barrel of the bats that three times had led the major leagues in home runs. There is an unwritten rule in baseball that if you’ve done it between the white lines before you will do it again. But even with three years of a seven-year contract left, time seemed to be running out for both Davis and the Orioles.
You tend to put too much credence in spring training results, especially during a pandemic that still threatens to disrupt baseball and other major sports to a degree unheard of before.
But from his very first at-bat in Florida, Davis looked like a different hitter. Whether it was a timing issue or whatever, he was a calmer, quieter version of the player who had been out of sorts the last few years.
The word of caution came fast and pulled no punches. “It’s still only spring training — even for veterans,” said more than one doubting observer.
However, it was also true that the last three spring trainings had preceded, and given every indication of what was to come — the worst years of a roller-coaster career.
Now that the pandemic has only added fuel to the “it’s only spring training” theory, Davis is sure to come under even more scrutiny than might normally have been expected.
I’m not foolish enough to predict a huge comeback by Davis based solely on what I saw in Florida. But I will say this — Chris Davis was not the same hitter in spring training that he’s been the last three years.
I don’t know if patience, confidence or a new approach was responsible. I just know there was a calmer, quieter presence in the batter’s box, more controlled swings, better finishes.
Will it carry over to a distorted 60-game season, and perhaps beyond? Who knows? It’s certainly worth a look.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox