One of new Orioles third base coach Bobby Dickerson’s early duties as infield coach this spring will be helping Chris Davis get ready to take over the everyday job at first base this season and forget a tough 2012 at the position.
Last year, Davis’ defensive struggles at first led to Mark Reynolds’ shift across the infield from third to first, one move that stabilized the Orioles’ defense. Reynolds, who struggled at third, flourished defensively at first, while Davis filled in suitably in the outfield because of injuries.
With Reynolds gone, first base belongs to Davis heading into spring training. Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said he believes Davis, who had the reputation of being a solid fielder in Texas before coming to Baltimore in 2011, can do the job.
So does Dickerson, who worked with infielders in the Orioles' minor league system before he was named third base coach to replace DeMarlo Hale this season. Showalter credited Dickerson with working with third baseman Manny Machado defensively to prepare him for the majors.
“I’ve been in touch with him throughout the winter,” Dickerson said about Davis. “We’ve talked about it. ... He’s ready. He’s chomping at the bit. His eyes look right. He’s wanting to do this. So that’s a good thing.”
Dickerson said he will work closely with Davis at first base this spring, concentrating on Davis’ footwork around the bag. Most of Davis’ struggles -- he made four errors at first in 38 starts -- came on routine throws. He entered last season with a career .997 fielding percentage at first base. His fielding percentage last year was .989.
“The guy can play defense,” Dickerson said. “He’s got the abilities to play defense physically. Now it’s a matter of getting him to apply it. His hands are fine. He’s got an arm to play third base. He can make accurate throws. Receiving the throws at first base and working around the base, the footwork, is something we’re going to work on and spend time on during spring training. We’ll do different drills to make sure he’s in good position to handle throws.
“That’s what makes a first baseman really get talked about in the game, when it seems like he’s saving all the bad throws,” Dickerson added. “When the throwing errors of the rest of your players are up, players get the blame for it or not, but there are balls that could be saved by a first baseman. It’s one of the things I talk to about middle infielders. If [catcher] Matt Wieters doesn’t have any throwing errors, we’re going a pretty good job in the middle infield, so they should take pride in that.”
Dickerson believes Davis knowing he’s going to be the everyday first baseman will help. Davis split time between first and third when he first joined the Orioles in late 2011.
“He was still relatively new to the organization,” Dickerson said. “He was playing third. He really didn’t know his role, where he was going to fit. He had routines that he used in Texas that he wants to get back to. We’re going to do that. We’re going to use his routines. We’re going to add to them. We’re going to do all we can to make sure he can play the position.”
Davis said he was frustrated by his struggles at first base last season, but is looking forward to making the most of the chance to return.
“I was disappointed last year with the way things worked out at first,” Davis said. “I felt I didn’t play anywhere [near where] I was capable of playing. We had a lot of injuries, guys going down in the outfield. ... I’m definitely looking forward being the first baseman.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun