Chris Davis hadn’t made a start at third base since the last day of the 2011 season, so he didn't even have a third baseman's glove.
But with regular third baseman Manny Machado beginning to serve his five-game suspension Monday, the club moved its starting first baseman across the diamond for the series opener against the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards. The move gave the Orioles the chance to use both Steve Pearce and Delmon Young in the lineup.
Including Monday, Davis has made 67 major league starts at third base, including 25 in 2011 — 17 of those coming with the Orioles after the club acquired him in a trade-deadline deal with Texas. Davis also played third base (226 games) more than first base (151 games) in the minor leagues.
Davis said a possible move to third base was presented to him last week with Machado’s suspension appeal looming.
“[I had] one day where I took ground balls and tried to get a feel for it, but obviously playing first base every day, I don’t have a lot of time to go out there and take a lot of ground balls, so I do what I can,” Davis said. “Game speed is always different. I feel good out there moving around. We’ll see what happens.”
Over the past several years, Davis has been one of the Orioles’ most flexible players defensively. He played third base and first base after joining the Orioles in 2011. After struggling at first base in 2012, Davis played both corner outfield spots, including 28 starts in right field when Nick Markakis was injured.
Since he didn't have a third baseman’s glove, he borrowed Machado's Rawlings Gold Glove-labeled model for Monday's game.
“I’ll knock it down and try to make a throw,” Davis said. “Obviously, with a guy like Manny, what was he, the Platinum Glove defender of the universe last year?
“I was there for most of the year in 2011, and in 2012 I played a lot, so it has been a while, but I feel somewhat comfortable there. I’m interested to see how these guys approach it. I know [Rangers shortstop] Elvis [Andrus] is probably going to bunt every time to comes up to bat. You just go out there and try to prepare like anyone else and play the game.”
Pearce and Young, two of the club’s top hitters against left-handed pitching, have also been two of the Orioles' hottest hitters for the past month. Heading into Monday’s game, Pearce was hitting .358 in June, and Young was batting .438 in the month, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter has struggled to get both in the lineup.
“I’ve been trying to find a way to get Delmon in there, but Steve’s made it hard on us,” Showalter said. “I think it hurts us off the bench a lot. Delmon and Steve, when he was there, were really good weapons off the bench late in the ballgame. … Steve, one of our points of emphasis with Steve [was] playing first base. In the spring, you saw how much he played there. He really presented himself well there.”