Chris Davis promised a new-look version of himself in 2021, the penultimate season of the largest contract the Orioles have ever given to a player. That showing lasted all of two spring training at-bats.
Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias announced that the first baseman underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery on the labrum in his left hip Wednesday morning in the Dallas area. The procedure, performed by Dr. Mark Muller at the Baylor Scott & White Sports Surgery Center, has a return-to-play time of four to five months, Elias said. That means Davis, 35, is expected to be ready for spring training of the 2022 season, the final year of the $161 million contract he signed before the 2016 campaign.
During that deal, Davis has batted a slash line of .196/.291/.379 (average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage), hitting fewer home runs and receiving fewer plate appearances with each passing year. Over the past two seasons, he has played in 16 games with no home runs, battling a knee injury most of 2020. He will spend the entirety of this season on the 60-day injured list, which he began the year on after suffering what was then termed a lower back strain in his first spring training game.
“This is something that we had come to in conjunction with him and working through some of the discomfort and pain he was experiencing during spring training in his lower back and hip region,” Elias said. “Ultimately, this was decided upon [as] the course of action that will hopefully be curative, but there will be a somewhat lengthy recovery there for Chris. He’s home, he’s doing well, everything went very smoothly, and he’s on the road to recovery right now.”
Once among the game’s top sluggers, Davis led the majors in home runs in two of the three seasons before he reached free agency. But since re-signing with Baltimore, he has rapidly declined. In 2018, he recorded the lowest batting average of any player to ever qualify for a batting title. Between the end of that season and the start of the next, he set major league records for consecutive at-bats and plate appearances without a hit. He spent the following offseason bulking up and shined in spring training, but he wasn’t able to carry that success through the coronavirus shutdown.
He arrived to Sarasota, Florida, this spring saying he had made some mechanics changes to his stance and swing in hopes of capturing some of the player he once was, even if Trey Mancini’s return from colon cancer and the ascension of rookie Ryan Mountcastle meant he was bound for a bench role. But the injury limited him to one exhibition game, which turned out to be the only time he donned an Orioles uniform this year.
Since inheriting what Davis last offseason referred to as “the one big lump that they’re kind of stuck with,” Elias has been adamant that the former All-Star is under contract and that the Orioles take that seriously. When Davis reunites with the Orioles in Florida next spring, there will be one season left on that deal, and he’ll be 17 months removed from when he last played in a regular-season game.
“I’m sure that he’s going to work his butt off this offseason,” said manager Brandon Hyde, who hadn’t spoken with Davis but left a voicemail for him Wednesday morning. “I expect him to be ready to go next spring, and looking forward to seeing him.”
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“It’s something that we’re going to have to take very slowly and methodically and carefully,” Elias said. “It’s probably going to take some time. But we’ve got all hands on deck to make sure that this goes well. He’s got every medical resource available to him, world-class, and he’s got a great head on his shoulder, and he’s a very determined, disciplined kid, so it all projects well. But we’re not going to rush anything.”
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