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Chris Davis sits again as Orioles seek adjustments to help him 'get back to being a baseball player'

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Orioles manager Buck Showalter gave struggling first baseman Chris Davis another day off Sunday, his second straight this weekend, as part of another effort to revitalize the season and possibly career of the man who holds the Orioles' club-record contract.

He sits as the Orioles try to take their first home series win from the Detroit Tigers, and as they look to dig out of a 7-20 hole to start the season, it's clear the efforts being taken this weekend are toward having Davis be a meaningful part of the hoped-for resurgence.

But Sunday morning's pregame media session provided the deepest glimpse Showalter has given into the team's efforts with Davis, and the difficulties that come with the struggles that have hampered him for two seasons now.

"It's a real, real long answer if I was just being completely, not honest, but blunt and open about it," Showalter said. "I just don't think that serves a purpose to talk about a lot of the things that present challenges.

“That's one thing I talked to him about yesterday, without revealing a whole lot — you've got to get back to being a baseball player. I don’t want to get into the exact.”

What he did say, however, spoke volumes.

"I talked with him some yesterday," Showalter said. "Just trying to get back to some of the things that — Chris was a baseball player with power, you know? And I think that he's a guy who still does run the bases, goes down the line hard.

"I'm sure there's, regardless of what we may think, none of us have really walked in his shoes. I'm sure there's some inner pressure to live up to some things. But we're just trying to step back and start again. You can't continue down the path and expect different results if we don't try something to fix something that isn't working as well as it could be."

Showalter went on to say, in as many words, that it's a confluence of circumstances that are making Davis follow up last year's .215 average with 26 home runs and a .736 on-base-plus-slugging percentage with a .167/.257/.256 batting line and two home runs this season. Just one of his hits have come off a left-handed pitcher, hence him sitting against Francisco Liriano and Daniel Norris this weekend.

But those problems against same-side pitching, combined with contract pressures and a league that has adjusted to him but maybe not the other way around, have put Davis in a bad spot. He gets farther from the 2015 home run crown that earned him his seven-year, $161 million contract by the day.

"We all know what he's capable of and what he's done in the past, but it's been a while since it's been consistent. We tried leaving everything alone, just letting it play its course. We've tried the batting order. Scott's tried some things. I think Chris is very receptive to some things that, I don't know if somebody would consider them drastic, but I just think there's a few things."

"You try to get to the root of what's causing it," Showalter said. "It's not just one thing. People think it's just one thing — there's multi. Chris is working. It means a lot to him. It does. It's very, very frustrating. If you guys see behind the scenes, it's eating at him. He wants to be everything for everybody, and I know a lot of people sarcastically would say, 'For X amount of dollars a year, I'll wear that.' He doesn't look at it that way. Believe me."

The amount of money in question is part of the reason Davis is under such scrutiny on an underperforming Orioles team. It's also why the Orioles, in the face of their slow start, are being so proactive in trying to turn him around. They began the season with Davis as the leadoff hitter in an effort to utilize his on-base skills, but it barely lasted a week as the club with 1-5 and seems just as much a drastic reset from his hitting in the bottom part of the order at the end of 2017 as anything else. Now, he's getting a time to try and make some adjustments a month into the season.

It seems the team is trying to get him to abandon his power-oriented approach, especially in an Orioles lineup that could use him to be a reliable and consistent bat in the middle of an inexperienced and injured group, and hit to the situation more often.

They've talked everything from bat size to swing mechanics. Showalter ended his thoughts on Davis by saying the talent is “still there.” The hope is that the recent conversations Davis has had with Showalter and company have taken hold, and his return to productivity will coincide with the return of Mark Trumbo (quad) and Jonathan Schoop (oblique) from injuries that can restock their lineup.

"He and Scott are working on [some things], trying to make some adjustments," Showalter said. "So, we look forward to him being back in the lineup with some things maybe that can help him for Tuesday. We'll see."

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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