SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles first baseman Chris Davis continues to swing a bat without pain in his left thumb, one of the most positive developments in the first week of camp. He’s no longer hindered by an injury that required constant treatments last season and forced him to make adjustments at the plate that didn’t bring the desired results.
“I think the biggest thing was really the rest and the time off and not having the physical contact and the beating that I did every day when I was swinging and taking balls at first base,” said Davis, who finished with a .221/.332/.459 slash line, 21 doubles, 38 home runs, 84 RBIs and 219 strikeouts - most in the majors - in 157 games.
“Really, after the first three or four weeks the swelling went completely away and I haven’t had anything, any issues or swelling since I started hitting. So, I think the biggest thing is just rest and obviously I didn’t have time to rest during the season last year.
“I’ve done stuff here and there just to improve my hand strength. That’s something I always take a lot of pride in and that’s something that’s really helped me to be a productive hitter in the past is having good form and hand strength.”
The injury occurred on an awkward slide/dive into second base in April, a “freak thing,” as Davis called it.
“I don’t think there’s any way you can prevent that,” he said. “It’s just got to go in feet-first and do whatever you can to protect your fingers.
“It was kind of an eye-opener for me because I hadn’t realized the impact that it really had on me. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be 100 percent and be able to swing with both hands. It was really a big relief to not have any pain and I’m looking forward to getting started again.”
Davis is the latest Oriole to insist that the team has moved on from last year’s wild card game. Nothing’s gained by dwelling on a loss.
“I think guys have done that and I think they’re professional as far as dealing with the results and reflecting and then moving on,” he said. “Obviously, we weren’t happy with the way that it ended. We fought and clawed to get in that spot and the way it ended, just the timing of everything, it was really tough. It’s going to be interesting to see the attitude of the new guys and the overall attitude of the camp over the next few days.”
The holdovers know about the window closing, the contracts that are set to expire this year and in 2018. They feel the growing sense of urgency. No one denies that it’s there.
“You’d be foolish not to realize that or disregard that,” Davis said. “We understand that not everybody is going to be here their whole career and very few guys play their entire career in one place. And we talked about it the last few years.
“The older I get and the closer these guys get to free agency or whatever it is, the more you realize that you have a sense of urgency about winning and going to the postseason with this group of guys. It’s a special group of guys and there’s nobody, no other group that I’d rather do it with.”
Most of the team is back, the core untouched beyond catcher Matt Wieters’ exit via free agency.
“That’s really nice to have whenever you walk in for a new season to have a lot of the same group,” Davis said. “And not only the same group, but a lot of guys have been together for five and six years. That’s a long time in this game.
“A lot of it has to do with the type of players we have and the type of guys we bring it. We take a lot of pride in our clubhouse and the way we go about our business, to really respect each other and enjoy being around one another.”
Outfielder Seth Smith is one of the newbies, his appeal being the career .344 on-base percentage in 10 major league seasons. The Orioles could use the added dimension, increasing their total from one.
“I think Seth is going to be good for us because he knows how to work the count, he knows how to get on base,” Davis said. “That’s the thing. We know we can hit the ball out of the yard, but I’d rather see us do it with one or two runners on, or even three instead of going up there hitting solo shots.
“I think a lot of times when you hit a two- or three-run homer, it’s really deflating to the other team as opposed to a solo shot. Really, there’s no one person in our lineup who has more power than the other guy. I think everyone one through nine has the potential to hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
Smith did it in four straight games against the Orioles last summer at Safeco Field.
“It was a fun four days for me and our team,” Smith said.
Smith hit 16 home runs last season for the Mariners, one below his career high set in 2010 with the Rockies. But the Orioles would settle for having him set the table for their mashers.
“At this point I am the kind of player that I am,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to try to bring every day and do the best I can and if that’s getting on base, great. If I can hit a couple homers like the rest of the guys, that would be good, too.”
Smith is fast becoming one of the guys in a clubhouse that embraces outsiders.
“It’s been great,” he said. “Guys are welcoming and it does feel like a family-type atmosphere, which I’ve been a part of in the past on other clubs. It’s nice when the guys are kind of all buying in and on the same page. I’ve only been here 12 hours, but that seems to be the case so far.”
Smith has observed the Orioles from the opposite dugout, how they’ve led the majors in home runs and beat teams into submission. The power displays will be more enjoyable from the inside.
“I’ve enjoyed watching the Orioles kind of do their thing for a while now and to be a part of it is going to be fun,” he said.
“I knew Mark (Trumbo) and I kept up with him a little bit. And just watching the lineup and some of the stars that are in the lineup, the big power guys. It’s fun. I didn’t check the box score daily, but you watch highlights and you see the fun things that they’re able to do.”
It appears that every player has reported to camp besides pitcher Nate Adcock, who was removed from the camp roster due to injury. We spotted Robert Andino, who smiled at all the familiar faces in the media. Dariel Alvarez walked through the clubhouse this morning.
Adam Jones hasn’t been at his locker during the media’s access time, but we know that he’s here.