SARASOTA, Fla. - The swings keep coming on the main and back fields. Baseballs are launched over fences, one slamming into the metal roof of the indoor batting cage beyond Camden Yards South. Failure to square them up brings a quick and audible scolding from the man who’s holding the bat.
The man who can’t escape the attention and scrutiny as another spring training unfolds. Who’s amused when told about the experts on social media who break down his stance and whether a toe tap or the positioning of his hands match what they saw in 2018.
Is Chris Davis doing anything different after a winter spent trying to correct the flaws - both physically and mentally - that fed into a historically bad season?
“I don’t know,” he said playfully. “Am I?”
The batting practice rounds posted on Twitter offer only a limited view. The hands drop on a few swings, causing Davis to get under the ball, but corrections are made a few pitches later.
One day after creating a loud, clanging sound on Field 4, he launched a ball in the stadium that ricocheted off the wooden platform beyond right field that’s used by relievers seeking a better vantage point.
It could mean nothing or everything. It’s the second week of spring training. He hasn’t been posted to the nasty stuff, the high-90s heat with movement registered on radar guns instead of thermostats.
“There are a few adjustments that I’ve made. I don’t really want to get into the details,” Davis said while standing at his locker.
“I think, for me, a lot of it was just kind of smoothing out any sort of movement, any sort of timing mechanism pre-pitch, trying to be as quiet as I possibly can. Being a bigger guy, when I make a little bit of movement it creates a lot of issues if I get in a bad position, so for me it’s just kind of pre-setting my position, trying to hold that spot and then just time the pitcher with, really, my front foot, I guess.”
This is known as tweaking instead of a complete teardown and rebuild, which only applies to the team’s plans after losing 115 games.
Davis isn’t in a pronounced crouch like Pete Rose. His hands aren’t raised above his head. He isn’t leaning back as if bracing against a strong wind. His feet aren’t spread wide apart or closed to the point where his heels almost touch.
The changes are more subtle, coming from the “less is more” school of hitting.
“The whole overhaul thing, for me at this point, I feel like is just not going to be productive,” Davis said. “The years that I spent in Texas going back and forth between the big leagues and minor leagues, that’s what that was all about. They wanted to completely revamp, redo everything and, honestly, it put me in a position where I was so lost that it took a long time for me to really figure out what even felt comfortable again.
“My stance, my swing, for the most part, is what it is, but I think there are still things I can do to limit movement, limit inconsistency and, hopefully, give myself a better chance to have a little bit more success on a consistent basis.”
Davis will be starting at first base for Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Twins at Ed Smith Stadium, but how many at-bats he accumulates through March 25 are under discussion. He met with manager Brandon Hyde yesterday to provide more clarity.
“I don’t really know yet,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a completely new staff and, really, a completely different mentality, so I just don’t really know what to expect yet.”
Hyde will make it a collaborative effort like so many other tasks within the organization. Davis’ voice will be heard.
“Yeah, I kind of got that,” Davis said. “I mean, he’s been real big on communication being open, both sides really saying what they want and trying to be as much on the same page at the end as we can.
“I’m going to get my work in. He knows that about me. He knows that I’m not a guy that you’re going to have to try to motivate. I’m a guy that you’re probably going to have to tell to stop or slow down. That’s kind of the way I’ve been my whole life.”
* The Orioles announced yesterday that they’ve generated more than $360 million in cumulative economic impact in Sarasota since 2015, the first year Sarasota County Government analyzed comprehensive data on the team’s impact.
The county’s analysis measures the total tourism impact created by the Orioles, combined with the club’s business operations and spending in Sarasota County. At $92 million for the most recent reporting period, the Orioles’ annual impact is nearly three times the figure projected when they moved their spring training operation from Fort Lauderdale to Sarasota County in 2010.
“The entire Orioles organization takes pride in providing the greatest economic impact to the Sarasota community of any sports organization in history,” executive vice president John Angelos said in a statement. “As Sarasota County’s preeminent sports tourism generator, the club has created more than $360 million and counting in public return on investment during the last four years of our training facility’s operation. We remain steadfast in our commitment to producing year-round Major and Minor League Baseball games, world-class arts and cultural events and year-round youth training and family recreational programming in the Sarasota community.”
Later this spring, the Orioles will celebrate the “One Millionth Fan” to attend exhibition games since their move to Sarasota. The club has reached that milestone faster than any franchise in the city’s nearly century-long history of major league spring training.