Through it all - the injuries, strikeouts, intense criticism from fans and media, reminders of a contract he couldn’t live up to - Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has worked to maintain his perspective and count his blessings.
They begin at home with wife Jill and daughters Ella and twins Evie and Grace. They include the people on the professional side of his life. Who prop him up when he’s at his lowest.
The pandemic and the isolation caused by it have tested everyone. Recent stories about Giants minor league Drew Robinson’s suicide attempt - his depression pushing him to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger - and shortstop Andrelton Simmons’ decision to opt out of the final week of the 2020 season due to his depression and suicidal thoughts - impacted Davis from many miles away.
He hurt for them and worries how others are handling the crisis.
“I think that’s something that really needs to be talked about more,” Davis said during yesterday’s Zoom conference call.
“When I read the story about Drew, I mean, I was in tears. I could not believe that this guy was going through that and then Andrelton comes out and it’s like, ‘What are we doing here?’ There have to be more conversations about things like that for there to be any sort of progress or any solution.”
Another 0-for-4 night and chorus of boos can’t compare.
“For me personally, man, I’ve got a great life,” Davis said. “I’ve got three beautiful girls, I’ve got a lot of people who love and support me and have always been there for me and always been there to encourage me, and I’m so thankful for that. I’ve had a lot of really great teammates, a lot of really great coaches. Just a lot of really great people in the organization around me that have continued to support me despite the struggles or whatever I was going through, and I will forever be grateful to those people.”
* The Orioles are going to find out which version of Pedro Severino is more prevalent over the course of a full season. If he isn’t dealt at the deadline.
Severino went 5-for-17 with a double and two home runs in July and batted .313/.382/.463 with three doubles, three home runs and 18 RBIs in 90 August plate appearances. But he took a wrong turn in the final month, slashing .159/.232/.206 with no home runs or RBIs in 69 plate appearances.
The arm strength never left him, but Severino was charged with five passed balls and behind the plate for 16 wild pitches as he worked to learn a staff that kept evolving.
“I think Sevie’s continuing to get better,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I’m really impressed with the strides he’s made since we first got him defensively and especially offensively.
“Offensively, I thought the first 40 games last year he was a force in the middle of our order and really hit the ball hard. I felt like he was just putting too much pressure on himself, really, those last 20 games, tried a little bit too hard, doing some things that were a little bit uncharacteristic. Some things that, when he first got to us, I felt like those were the at-bats he was taking. Not letting the game come to him offensively and just pressing. And right now he is, in the live BPs and you watch his live batting practice, he’s swinging the bat so well. He’s so strong. But I think defensively he’s made big strides, as well.
“He’s a guy who’s always been able to throw, and now it’s about being more consistent, receiving-wise. He’s gotten quite a few games under his belt at the major league level now, and it’s not easy to do behind the plate, the pitcher-catcher relationship, growing in that way, growing in game-calling. He’s improving in all those areas and I’m excited about him going forward with this year.
“I think that he’s going to put together a really good season, and since the first day of spring training he’s been ready to go. And I like the look in his eye right now.”
* DJ Stewart has one minor league option remaining and he’s trying to avoid another tour of Triple-A.
The outfield is set with Anthony Santander, Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle and Cedric Mullins, and with Trey Mancini back on the roster and available to move from first base to right. However, there’s also room for Stewart as a reserve or designated hitter.
“I think DJ, like a lot of these guys, I’m going to move him around quite a bit and get him as many at-bats as possible this spring,” Hyde said. “We do have a lot of outfielders and I’m going to play them all. I think these things tend to work themselves out as we go into the season.
“I think that DJ’s got a big upside and DJ’s got really big power. I like his swing, it’s a line drive swing. He’s kind of a hitter first, power second. I think that he can go away from that at times, but I like it when he’s hitting line drives the other way, and he’s got so much pull power that he can be a complete hitter. He’s in the mix to play a lot and he’s going to get every opportunity.”
* The first exhibition game is Sunday afternoon against the Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium, and the return of baseball, with fans allowed inside at 25 percent capacity, brings meaning that’s usually absent in early Grapefruit League play.
No fake crowd noise or cardboard cutouts.
“I think we’re looking forward to having fans in the stands,” Hyde said. “I think it’s sold out everywhere we’re going, here and everywhere we’re playing. I know it’s a limited number, but people are ready to watch baseball, we’re ready to play in front of people.
“Last year was a lot different, so to have a little buzz in the stands and have some people there, that’s going to be a lot of fun on Sunday.”
* Ask a new player on the team why he chose to sign with the Orioles and the responses are identical.
Shortstop Freddy Galvis joined the chorus yesterday when he spoke about “having an opportunity to play.”
“One of the biggest things is I have the opportunity to be the shortstop and play baseball, and that’s what I love to do,” Galvis said.
“I love to be on the field, so I have the opportunity with Baltimore to be on the field and play baseball, and man, I just took it. I feel good about that.”
* As expected, Stevie Wilkerson is going to get reps in the infield and outfield in spring training. That’s how a team treats a super-utility player.
“I’m going to give him an opportunity to just play all over the field,” Hyde said. “I told him that a few days ago. So he’s going to be playing three spots in the outfield and he’s going to be playing multiple spots in the infield.”
As expected, Davis isn’t expected to get any reps at third base in camp. Or during the season.
He’s the first baseman, designated hitter or bench player. His days of moving across the diamond appear to be done.
“I’m just trying to get him comfortable at first base right now,” Hyde said. “We’re one week in. I think that we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but I haven’t talked to him about playing anywhere else.”
* Twelve exhibition games will air on 105.7 The Fan. Here’s the schedule:
Tuesday, March 2: vs. Yankees, 1:05 p.m.
Thursday, March 4: vs. Red Sox, 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 6: vs. Tigers, 6:05 p.m.
Tuesday, March 9: at Twins, 1:05 p.m.
Monday, March 15: vs. Pirates, 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 21: vs. Twins, 1:05 p.m.
Tuesday, March 23: vs. Rays, 1:05 p.m.
Wednesday, March 24: at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m.
Thursday, March 25: vs. Pirates, 6:05 p.m.
Friday, March 26: at Yankees, 6:35 p.m.
Saturday, March 27: at Braves, 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 28: vs. Pirates, 1:05 p.m.