SAN DIEGO—With his teammates mentioned in trade talks, Chris Davis could reflect on having gone through the experience. Tuesday was the eighth anniversary of the trade that changed Davis’ career, the one that sent him from the Texas Rangers to the Orioles.
That trade sent Koji Uehara to the Rangers for Davis and Tommy Hunter. Eight years later, Davis is the senior Oriole, and one who could give Trey Mancini or Mychal Givens advice about being the subject of trade speculation.
“Stay focused on your job,” Davis said. “If you let yourself go down that road, I think it will be a huge distraction … I think in order to be fair to yourself and your teammates, you’ve got to continue to come in, focused on the task at hand.”
Davis has had a second straight horrible year. After 2018, when he hit just .168 and struck out 192 times in 128 games, this year he’s happier even though it’s been another season of struggles.
He began the season without a hit in 33 at-bats after going 0-for-21 to end 2018. A high point during his low point was the support of fans at Oriole Park.
Statistically, this year hasn’t been any better. Davis is hitting .181, and his game-winning home run in Tuesday’s 8-5 victory was just his eighth and his first since July 5. He has only 27 RBIs.
The home run broke an 0-for-18 skid. On a road trip in which the Orioles went 5-4, Davis hadn’t had a hit in 16 at-bats and had struck out 14 times.
“Obviously, he’s been struggling,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “For him to get a home run to give us the lead late, where we battled back, it’s a great feeling for him. The guys were real excited for him and I know that means a lot to him.”
Davis is just past the halfway point of his seven-year, $161-million contract. Hyde didn’t get to see the Davis who led the major leagues in home runs in 2013 and 2015. The Davis he sees is taking ground balls before day games and trying to do whatever he can to justify his place on the Orioles.
“He’s had a tough trip,” Hyde said. “He’s had an up-and-down season. He’s had really good moments, and he’s had some tough moments. He’s part of us, and we pull for him big time, so to see him deliver in a big spot, that’s great.”
In 2011, Davis joined a team that already had J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters. Manny Machado was a year away from joining them. This season he has received support from far younger teammates who are pulling for him.
“Taxing,” is the way Davis described the season.
“Feel like I have more gray hairs than I started the season with. I think that’s something that was to be expected coming into the season, knowing that we were going to have a lot of inexperienced guys, a lot of guys who were going to have to try to figure out how to compete at the big league level … I think it was to be expected, but it’s always harder going through it no matter how you try to prepare yourself.”
A year ago, the Orioles were finishing up their tear-down by trading Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Jonathan Schoop, having already traded Machado, Brad Brach and Zack Britton. Jones would leave at the end of the season.
Davis said last season was harder.
“I mean, nobody likes to struggle, and struggling’s tough no matter the environment you’re in, but I just feel like it’s a better place to come to work this year,” Davis said.
“There’s hope. I feel like last year, the bar was set so high from the beginning of the year, and then things changed so quickly. It was a complete 180 after the All-Star break and trade deadline. Half of our team was gone.
“We had a bunch of new faces in the clubhouse, and it was a sobering feeling coming to the field every day knowing that you’re going to try to just grind through nine innings. This year, it’s been a little bit different. I feel like we have things to work on, things that we’re trying to accomplish, and you can see the work that we’ve put in starting to pay off. It’s encouraging.”
Davis is the oldest player on the Orioles at 33. Only pitchers Richard Bleier (32) and Asher Wojciechowski (30) have hit 30.
“I think guys are starting to settle in a little bit,” Davis said. “We’re starting to trust each other and understand each other’s tendencies and abilities, and I think the more time we spend together, the more games we play, the better off we’re going to be. Hopefully, this is the start of something good to come.”
He appreciates the support of his teammates.
“It means a ton,” he said. “Every day I come in here and go to work. I know that there are number of guys in here that are rooting me on, cheering for me. They want to see me succeed. I want to see them succeed. It’s a cool thing to be a part of. It really does feel like a group of guys that’s kind of a band of brothers or a family even though we haven’t been together that long. We’re starting to understand what it takes to win at this level. It’s been fun.”