SARASOTA, Fla.—In his second spring game, Chris Davis hit his first Grapefruit League home run. Davis had gone hitless in four at-bats, striking out three times, before he launched a 1-2 breaking ball from Tampa Bay’s Austin Pruitt in the fifth inning. The ball cleared the center-field wall, and Davis had a two-run home run.
Davis struck out looking in the first, and in the third inning, grounded to short in the shift.
“It felt really good,” Davis said. “I felt like today was really the first day I had my legs underneath me the entire day. Coming off the last few days of that bronchitis, just getting it out of my system, felt like I was getting my strength back and getting my legs underneath me, which makes it a little bit easier.”
Davis struck out twice in Saturday’s game, but said he liked the way he swung.
“I felt like I saw the ball well the other day,” Davis said. “Just a little in between on my timing, and it’s getting a little bit better each game. Obviously had a positive result my last at-bat today, so it’s a good one to end on.”
Davis, who batted .168 last season, said his batting practice sessions have been going well.
“I think they’ve been very productive, very focused and going into it with a plan of attack, and we’re sticking to it,” Davis said. “Not trying to just launch balls but really work on bat path, staying through the ball, not trying to do too much with the ball, and I think it’s going to prove to help me down the stretch in spring training and into the season.”
Manager Brandon Hyde knows there will be a lot of attention on Davis this spring and in the early part of the season.
“It’s only a spring training game, and it’s only his second game, but for him to square one up like that,” Hyde said. “I just want to see him take good at-bats, and the results will happen.”
Davis likes that Hyde and hitting coach Don Long have a new approach.
“I think it’s a positive, to be honest with you,” Davis said. “I think it’s a good chance for me to reset and kind of regroup and put really the last couple of years behind me and just move forward.
“I like what we’re trying to accomplish this year as far as the environment we’re trying to set and the type of play — the way we’re approaching the games. We’re aggressive, we’re going to make teams adjust to us instead of the other way around. I like what I’ve seen so far.”
Hyde knows Davis’ resume, but he’s still getting used to watching him hit.
“To hit a two-strike breaking ball for a home run shows you how strong he is,” Hyde said. “Rhythm and timing is coming, and he was seeing the ball better his last two at-bats. That was nice to see.”
Davis has made adjustments to his swing during the offseason and the early part of the spring.
“A lot of it was just shortening up,” Davis said. “I felt like there were way too many at-bats last year where I was getting out and around the ball, leading to a lot of foul balls, a lot of ground balls into the shift.
“Just trying to get back to keeping my swing a little shorter, using all the field and not just getting pull happy. I know guys are going to shift me. I think we saw the first time they used six outfielders on me.
“I don’t even know how many guys they’ve got out there, but doing a few different things to try to shift me even more and get in my head a little bit, and I think that will play to my advantage if I let it. But the big thing for me is not trying to go out there and do too much, not feeling like I have to carry the team on my back.”
Davis likes Long’s philosophy of hitting, which he used as hitting coach of the Cincinnati Reds for the previous five seasons.
“I think it’s a little bit different from what we’ve seen in the past,” Davis said.
“He’s really trying to instill a belief that we’re going to hit as a unit this year. It’s not going to be one guy carrying the team. It’s not going to be two or three guys. It’s going to be a collective effort day-in and day-out. We’re going to prepare better than anybody else.
“We’re going to do the little things that we know will make a difference throughout the course of the season, and for me, he’s really just working to instill that kind of confidence in each and every guy and wants us to work to do whatever we can to get ourselves in a position where we can succeed.”