Orioles first baseman Chris Davis isn't sure how the new speed-up rules will impact the coming season, but he said Thursday he wouldn't mind terribly if Major League Baseball decided to restrict the use of exaggerated defensive shifts.
It was obvious from his demeanor that he wasn't being entirely serious, but it was also clear that he had given the subject a little bit of thought after watching so many hard-hit balls get swallowed up by the crowd in right field last season.
"When you're 0-for-2 or 0-for-3 and you hit a seed into right field and you look up and the third baseman is throwing you out, and you think 'Really?'" Davis said. "Or the worst is when you're up four runs and it's your last at-bats and you're 0-for-3 and you hit one and the third baseman is there, and you're thinking, 'I mean, is a single really going to hurt you guys?'"
There are several ways to beat a shift, and Davis feels he will be better able to hit to the opposite field this season because he is completely healthy. He'll probably drop a few bunts down the third base line, too, but isn't sure that's a sound strategy.
"Everybody has made a big fuss about me bunting and doing all that stuff,'' he said. "I will eventually start laying some bunts down. I would like, the first couple of weeks, to see some pitches and have some at-bats and not just go up there and lay one down."
He's not convinced that a power hitter settling for a free infield hit is going to cause opposing managers to rethink their defensive strategy.
"I don't think it's going to keep them honest,'' he said, "because I've bunted or attempted to bunt against teams. Even Boston last year, bunted on (Jake) Peavy for a base hit and the next at-bat the shift was right there.
"And I've talked to guys on other teams who have said, 'We would be willing to trade a 4-for-4 day with four infield singles for a 1-for-4 day with a three-run homer. Which is smart."
The subject of a rules change came up during an ESPN appearance by new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter has repeatedly cast doubt on how any plan to dictate defensive placement would work.