SALISBURY, Md. - Chris Davis wished that he could have hit a home run last night to reward the fans at Perdue Stadium who greeted each of his at-bats with a rousing ovation. He settled for no longer having pain in his right oblique and being ready to come off the disabled list.
Going 0-for-4 with Single-A Delmarva, including a strikeout and double play, didn’t matter in the grand scheme.
“I’ve felt really good physically for about a week and a half,” he said. “Obviously, the medical staff and training staff wanted to take it slow. I think anytime you’re dealing with an injury first hand, you’re going to want to get back out there as soon as you feel even reasonably better. And they did a great job of really pacing this thing out and making sure I took all the right steps to get back to 100 percent.
“I owe them a lot of credit for feeling the way that I do right now and I expect to be rolling on Friday and hopefully start a winning streak and ride it into October.”
Davis said playing last night in Delmarva was “a little unfamiliar,” but he’s been on injury rehab assignments before, including a stop this week at Single-A Frederick. He provided the spread, as major leaguers do, with the Shorebirds dining on steak and chicken following their 9-2 loss to Lexington.
“I felt like once the game started, once I got on the field, I was right in my element,” he said. “That’s the beautiful thing about the game. No matter where you are or what level you’re at, it’s still the same game, so I enjoyed it. I wish I would have given them a little something more to watch, but I had a good time while I was down here.”
Davis really wanted to launch a ball over the advertising or the new video board, but he never got one out of the infield.
“My third at-bat, my first swing, I let it eat a little bit,” he said.
“I’ve felt good physically for a while now and once the game starts, I think subconsciously there’s probably a little hesitancy, a little bit of anxiety not knowing if you’re going to feel the same way or if you’re going to feel the effects. So, to let go and really take a full aggressive hack and not to feel anything, it was a relief to be honest with you.”
Davis’ return pushes Trey Mancini back into the outfield or as a part-time designated hitter. Mancini made some impressive plays at first base and also struggled with a few ground balls hit up the line. He dug out some throws, as Davis routinely does, and missed a throw that initially left him with an error before the official scorer switched it to Manny Machado.
“I’m looking forward to playing first again,” Davis said. “I miss being out there on the field with the guys. It’s been nice to be able to travel with them and to stay with the team, but it’s just not the same when you’re not out there on the field with them.”
Nothing fazes Mancini, which is part of his appeal. His bat quiets and he finds a way to heat it up again. He makes a mistake in the field and works harder to correct it rather than begin to lose confidence.
The second half will begin with Mancini leading the club with a .312 average, .354 on-base percentage and .538 slugging percentage. His 44 RBIs are tied for third, his 15 doubles rank fourth and his 14 home runs are tied for fourth.
“I said many times that that’s a reminder to us that sometimes these guys come so fast,” said manager Buck Showalter. “I don’t think there’s anybody in the big leagues with a better track record and the way it used to be done with developing players. Now, these guys get rushed so much because there’s such a need up here so quickly, especially with the 10-day DL.
“Trey’s been good, especially when you think about playing a new position. It’s probably going to change for him again after the All-Star break. He’s handled everything that’s been thrown at him. The biggest challenge is major league pitching. He’s done well. I’m really happy with him. He cares. You see certain guys and you wonder if they get comfortable and they get established if that will go away. I don’t think you feel that way about Trey. I think he’s going to grind everything. He cares.”
And to think that there were serious questions about him breaking camp with the team with first base blocked and Mark Trumbo re-signed as a free agent. He convinced the Orioles that he could handle the outfield, an experiment that picked up steam in spring training, and he never seemed to be overwhelmed by anything presented to him. Composure counts, too.
“You find out, too, that you have to be careful about giving him too much,” Showalter said. “There’s a way to do things. That’s why a lot of people who haven’t been down in clubhouses and locker rooms and dugouts and on the field, there’s a way to approach guys. Everybody’s different. He makes a couple of ‘where to throw the ball’ mistakes, you don’t walk up to him in the dugout after. He knows exactly what happened. I waited a day or so and just came by him during BP and, ‘Hey, walk me through your thinking there.’
“He’s got a thing where he’s trying to play where we want him to play, but the runners up here will block your eye site on purpose. It doesn’t matter where you play if you can’t see the ball, so you’ve got to get someplace where you can see the ball when it comes off the bat. Just talking about little things like that. Your confidence can ebb defensively up here, too, so you’ve got to be careful.
“Every player is different. Some guys want immediate feedback. Some guys are fine moving on to the next at-bat if something happens. It’s only a problem if it happens again. Trey’s been a quick learner. He holds himself to a high standard.”
The Orioles are sending Kevin Gausman to the mound on Friday and the Cubs are countering with left-hander Mike Montgomery, the 36th overall pick by the Royals in the 2008 draft who’s 1-6 with a 3.75 ERA in 25 games this season, including six starts.
Montgomery’s last start was a disaster. Facing the Brewers on July 6, he allowed seven runs and six hits in 2 1/3 innings in an 11-2 loss. The Cubs used him in relief on Sunday against the Pirates and he gave up two runs and three hits and walked three batters in three innings.
Left-handers are hitting .224 against Montgomery this season and right-handers are hitting .249.
Montgomery has made two relief appearances against the Orioles in his career and tossed three scoreless innings. Two of those innings were pitched at Camden Yards.