Chris Davis is expected to start Friday in the Orioles’ series opener against the Braves in Atlanta.
That shouldn’t be news. He’s the club’s highest paid player. He’s a former All-Star. He’s played almost every game in his Orioles career when healthy.
The guy starts baseball games.
This is a different Chris Davis, of course. This one has had such a disastrous stretch at the plate that he has been benched for eight straight games – and 10 of 12 — while he’s worked with the club’s hitting instructors and vice president Brady Anderson.
It’s taking an Orioles’ village to try and fix the club’s most perplexing issue.
Finally, Orioles manager Buck Showalter says Davis’ working-on-things exile is over.
He’ll start against a lefty, Atlanta’s Sean Newcomb, who is 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA.
The return has been pending for a few days. Showalter stressed this week that even the opposing starting pitcher didn’t matter – though with Washington ace Max Scherzer on the hill Thursday, it seemed less than bright to dust off Davis 2.0 against arguably the majors’ best hurler.
So, why Friday exactly?
“That’s when they told me they thought would be the right time, he’s just about there,” Showalter said about those working with Davis. “I think everybody’s had input on it and looked at it and worked on it and this is what we want to do. I’m looking forward to getting him back on the field. I’m really looking forward to potentially getting the impactful player that he’s capable of being.”
You know the narrative. Davis twice led the American League in homers, signed a franchise record, seven-year, $161 million deal to stay with the Orioles in 2016 and has underperformed significantly since, culminating in an abysmal .150/.227/.227 slash line in 2018. He’s hit four homers and struck out 86 times in 229 plate appearances this year.
Davis declined to comment Thursday about what this week-plus has been like for him. But Showalter addressed it pre-game.
“Believe me, he is champing at the bit. He wanted to play. He’s been wanting to play every game It’s not something he enjoys, trust me,’ Showalter said about Davis. “This is something Chris doesn’t like, not playing. It’s been tough for him. Really tough. But he knows what we’re all trying to accomplish.”
It’s going to be interesting to see what adjustments Davis has made in his time away from playing. And whether those can help jolt him out of what has been a painful decline.
There’s obvious skepticism here. Two-plus years of bad habits and lack of confidences aren’t easily waved away by a 10-day, fix-it wand.
If this seems like desperation, well, that’s because that’s what it is. It was a highly unusual step to try and resuscitate a player’s offense – really, his career – in the middle of a major league season. There was no demotion (there couldn’t be without permission and/or major financial ramifications) or fake injury.
It was simply a step back, a breather and a crash course all rolled into one.
Today is expected to be the day when Davis returns to doing what he’s done most of his life: Starting and playing baseball games.
Whether he can still play them well is what will determine whether this respite was the balm needed or just another missed shot in Davis’ and the Orioles’ dark season.