The case for the defense at first

SARASOTA, Fla. - For now, it seems no one is talking about Chris Davis and his defensive play at first base. A few weeks ago, it was a prime topic and concern of Orioles fans.

But a few weeks of some solid defense at the bag in spring games seems to have put Davis on the right track and is leaving fans less concerned at this point.

Davis has worked hard on that part of his game in camp and, as Buck Showalter might say, he seems to be in a good place right now.

He probably has a good look in his eye, too, but I didn’t notice during an interview with Davis Sunday.

“You guys know how frustrated I was last year when I played the way I did,” Davis said. “I looked at the mistakes I made and errors I made. They were just careless. Well, I don’t want to say careless, but it was almost like I was too relaxed.

“(New infield and third base coach) Bobby Dickerson and I have had some conversations about the reputation I came over here with as a very good defender. I think I tried to do too much at times. Trying to make every play instead of making the right play.

“Now I am slowing myself down a bit. My mentality, as you guys know, is pretty aggressive. I think the more I slow it down and relax, the better off I am.”

Davis has big shoes, or a big glove to fill with the departure of Mark Reynolds, whose play at first helped the O’s defensive improvement late last season.

For what it’s worth, though, Reynolds has a career .990 fielding percentage and 8.98 range factor per nine innings at first base according to and Davis is at .995 with a range factor of 9.40 in 230 career starts. League average is 9.22.

“I feel really good over there, I feel comfortable,” Davis said. “I feel like I have earned my infielders’ trust back, which is huge. Defensively, we have a chance to be really, really good.”

Davis hasn’t played much at first with two of the other three infielders in second baseman Brian Roberts and third baseman Manny Machado.

“The biggest thing is just consistency,” Davis said. “When you know you have the same guy next to you every day, it takes some stress off your mind. We’ve all seen what Manny can do at third. The play the other day when he backhanded the ball down the line, my jaw was open when I caught the ball because he hit me right in the chest and he didn’t even look.

“He’s still learning over there, being a shortstop for most of his career. There are times when I may have to be on my toes with him because he has such a good arm and such good range.”

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