Orioles first baseman Chris Davis addresses the media at FanFest about his suspension and his attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
As reporters crowded around him behind the stage at Saturday's Orioles FanFest, suspended slugger Chris Davis joked that he was going to "go Marshawn Lynch on you," a reference to the Seattle Seahawks running back who doesn't speak to the media.
Instead, the affable Davis talked plenty — for more than 10 minutes — about his 25-game suspension last year, about taking a prescription drug despite knowing it was banned and about joining his teammates in the playoffs, but not being able to play alongside them.
"It was good to come back during the postseason, even though I didn't want to be a distraction," said Davis, who has one game remaining on the suspension. "I wanted to see everybody [last October] and kind of talk to them and let them know, one, how sorry I was. And two, that I was still behind them no matter what. I think all that was addressed toward the end of the season last year and, like I said, I'm looking to move forward."
Although Davis, 28, spoke to his teammates privately in the postseason, Saturday was the first time he has permitted a detailed interview since he was suspended Sept. 12 for failing a second amphetamines test. Specifically, he tested positive for the drug Adderall, which is prescribed to patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and permitted by Major League Baseball only through a therapeutic-use exemption.
Knowing he didn't have an exemption for the drug — he admitted that he took it multiple times in 2014 — Davis said he understood the risks when he made his decision.
"It was a moment of weakness. Obviously, I wasn't thinking about the big picture," said Davis, who had remained quiet on the subject this winter with the exception of one limited interview with a Christian music station. "It was a mistake that I wish I could go back and undo … It's something that's been addressed in the past, but obviously I didn't take the right steps."
Davis said he was initially diagnosed with ADHD in 2008 and began taking Adderall. He said he didn't need it for baseball but to function better in everyday life. Davis said he had an MLB exemption in previous years, but was denied one before the 2013 season, which was his best year in the major leagues. He also didn't have an exemption in a whirlwind 2014, when he struggled with a .196 average, dealt with a left oblique strain and became a first-time father.
"It was [for] off the field — just an everyday life thing. There were a lot of times when I was young when teachers had brought it up, but we never went down that road [to be tested]. In 2008, they prescribed Adderall, I realized what a difference it made in my everyday life," he said. "I was just kind of overwhelmed with everything that was going on last year with the injury. There were a lot of things that were taking my focus away from baseball and, like I said, it's a mistake I wish I could take back, but I can't."
Davis confirmed Saturday that he has received an exemption this winter and will be able to play all of the 2015 season while using Adderall. He said he had to do "different things" to prove to MLB-appointed doctors that he had the disorder this winter, but he didn't reveal specifics. He also didn't address specifically why he was rejected for the drug in 2013.
When the burly Davis led the majors that year with 53 homers and 138 RBIs, there was unfounded speculation that his breakout may have been chemically enhanced. Not only did Davis vehemently dispel those accusations, but he went further, denouncing the home run records set by steroid-connected sluggers such as Barry Bonds.
Davis made a point Saturday that there is a significant difference between using steroids and his failed test — and he said he's not concerned with critics who assume the two are intertwined.
"Anabolic steroids and Adderall or stimulants, whatever you want to call them, are two completely different things," Davis said. "I was under the gun in 2013 because I was successful. It was like, 'Oh OK, this guy finally figured it out so he must be on steroids.' And it's a shame that our game has come to that. … But, for me, the biggest thing is when you have ADHD … [Adderall] is not a performance-enhancing drug. It doesn't give you the same effect that it would for someone who doesn't have the same disease."
Davis batted a career-worst .196 with 26 homers in 127 games in 2014. Four days after his suspension was announced, the Orioles clinched their first division title in 17 years and Davis couldn't be part of the festivities. He rejoined the team during its American League Championship Series loss to the Kansas City Royals, but was prohibited from playing.
"It was great to see the guys, but it was tough," he said. "The biggest thing you can do when you screw up is face the problem, and not be able to look those guys in the eye and tell them what had gone on. For them to find out the way they found out [right before a doubleheader], I wasn't really happy about that."
Davis will be a full participant in spring training and will remain off the active roster until the team plays one more game without him — barring injury, he should be available April 7, the second game of the season at Tampa Bay.
"Being away from it a month longer than the rest of these guys was tough at first, but I used it to my advantage to get into my workouts a little bit earlier," he said. "I definitely think last year got off to a slow start, so this year I wanted to get off on the right foot."
His teammates seem more than willing to welcome him back without incident.
"It's not a big deal for us," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "I think we'll move past that pretty quickly."
Reliever Tommy Hunter, who has known Davis since their days together in the Texas Rangers organization, said each player may have his own opinion on what Davis did, but the suspension hasn't altered their friendship.
"I don't want to speak on everybody's behalf, but I'm sure there's some mixed opinions, mixed emotions on it," Hunter said. "It was tough at the time, but he's one of my best friends, so he can't do much wrong in my eyes. I just pat him on the butt and tell him to hit 60 [home runs]."