The Nationals announced this week that right-hander Erik Davis had been added to the 40-man roster. The move might have surprised a few baseball fans who have not heard that much about Davis, but it certainly was no surprise to those who saw him play or coached him, especially Double-A Harrisburg pitching coach Paul Menhart.
"I was absolutely ecstatic," Menhart said. "This kid had an unreal turnaround in his career from last year to this year."
The 6-foot-4, 200 lb. Davis struggled after a knee injury that slowed down his progress and some wondered if he would ever be able to get back to his level before the injury.
Not only did Davis get back, but he exceeded expectations and became dominant - in just one season.
In 2011, as a starter, Davis had a 5.30 ERA in 24 starts in 2011 for Siongle-A Potomac and Harrisburg, with 12 losses and 57 walks.
In 2012, Davis appeared in 40 games for Harrisburg and eight for Triple-A Syracuse, all in relief. The numbers were staggering. His is ERA was 2.71 in 73 innings with a 8-3 record and only 20 walks.
"He needed to find out who he was after the knee issue," Menhart said. "I am a big fan. He earned this opportunity. The kid turned his whole career around in one year."
Moved out of a starter's role, the former Stanford Cardinal started to trust his fastball and he used it a lot more. As his confidence grew, he got more aggressive with his fastball, which he could pinpoint at 95 mph, and got big-time results.
"He was not trying to nibble at the corners," Menhart said. "He really challenged hitters. His fastball set up his off-speed pitches, which are well above-average."
The 26-year old Davis was used as the set-up man for Harrisburg and then moved into the closing role when Christian Garcia moved to Syracuse. Davis blossomed in the role.
The numbers have gotten even more absurd in the Dominican Winter League, where Davis has a 0.53 ERA in 15 games and has allowed just one earned run. He has not allowed a run in his last 10 games.
Along with Ryan Perry's move from reliever to starter, Davis' progress was the "highlight of the year" for Menhart.
The Nationals were very impressed with the giant step Davis made this year, impressed enough to protect the talented young hurler with a spot on their 40-man roster.