SARASOTA, Fla.—Two days before position players were due to report, Chris Davis arrived at Orioles camp. At the moment, though, all is not well.
Davis arrived in Sarasota six days ago but came down the flu. Now, he has bronchitis. He’s hoping to get on the field Saturday.
At FanFest on Jan. 26, Davis said he planned to arrive in Sarasota early. Getting sick wasn’t on the schedule.
“I didn’t plan on showing up here and getting sick, but that’s just the hand I was dealt,” Davis said Friday.
After last July’s player purge, Davis is the biggest name remaining with the Orioles. His 2018 numbers mirrored the Orioles’ 115-loss season.
“You don’t have guys that have been here over the years with me anymore,” Davis said. “I think that there’s really no other place to look, and, obviously, with the way that my season personally went last year, there’s going to be criticism and rightfully so.”
Davis said he’s prepared diligently, and he’s looking forward to proving himself.
“Obviously, with being sick the last few days, I don’t feel 100 percent, but I don’t think all the work I’ve done in the offseason has just left me,” he said.
Davis hit .168 last year and stuck out 192 times in 128 games. As he begins the fourth year of a seven-year, $161-million contract, Davis will be a focal point.
“There’s no doubt, and I think for me, last year going into the season I had such high expectations,” Davis said. “Not only personally but as far as the team was concerned I thought we were really in a good position to contend for the AL East and be a postseason team and obviously that was not the case at all.
“But the tone has changed a little bit with everything that went on last year. Obviously with trading away a bunch of our players and bringing in some new guys and now having an entirely new staff, new front office, I think the expectations are still to succeed, but I think you also have to understand what lies ahead.
“And, really, the number of guys that we have here that really haven’t played a lot of big league baseball. There’s always going to be criticism, there’s always going to be scrutiny, and I think going into last year and really having to face it on a daily basis kind of showed me how to go about dealing with that and how to let the people around me kind of lean in with me and go through that with me and not try to shoulder it by myself.”
Since Davis came to the Orioles from the Texas Rangers in 2011, Buck Showalter had been his manager. He’s eager to adjust to manager Brandon Hyde’s lower-key approach.
“I think the pressure that I’ve always felt has been really self-inflicted,” Davis said.
“I’ve always held myself to a really high standard, maybe in some people’s eyes, an unrealistic standard at times. I think, as far as having a new staff, having a new voice in the clubhouse, it was time for a change. I said it at FanFest. ‘I was very appreciative and grateful for everything that Buck and [executive vice president Dan Duquette] did here.’
“We had a lot of good memories and a lot of good times that we can look back on. For the future, for the present, it was time for a change. I think it’s going to be good. I think it’s going to be good to hear a new set of pipes in the clubhouse, to see a little different landscape, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Hyde has spoken with Davis a handful of times, and is eager to see him play.
“I just want him to be himself,” Hyde said. “I just want him to be comfortable…I want him to know he’s a big part of this team. He’s done a lot of great things for the city of Baltimore, and I just want him to feel that he’s comfortable in his own skin. I just need him to relax and go perform. Those are conversations I’ve had with him, and I will continue to have with him as we go through camp.”
Davis has watched video and worked during the offseason. He’s convinced things will be different in 2019.
“There would be one or two games where I would have a few hits and I felt like I was kind of on to something and then it would be another two-week spell where I couldn’t hit water if I fell out of a boat,” Davis said.
“I was kind of scratching my head. I know [former hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh] was doing the same thing. We were all kind of confused and didn’t really know how to go about it. I think hearing a few different voices this offseason and doing some things a little bit different — one, it helped me realize I wasn’t as far away as I thought I was, and two, that the player that was productive and successful in the past has not gone. He didn’t disappear. He’s still here, and I think as far as my swing is concerned, I feel that I’m that player right now.”