Washington — Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who hasn’t played since June 11 and has been out of the starting lineup for the past eight games and 10 of the team’s past 12 games, will return for Friday night’s interleague series opener in Atlanta, manager Buck Showalter said Thursday.
“That’s when they told me they thought would be the right time. He’s just about there,” Showalter said.
Mired in a season-long slump that has him hitting just .150, Davis began to receive time off June 8, missing the middle two games of the series in Toronto. And he hasn’t played since an 0-for-5, three-strikeout game against the Red Sox on June 11.
Showalter has said Davis has been given time to work on hitting mechanics and receive a mental rest. Initially he sat out against left-handed starters, but then was absent altogether. The Orioles had few options with Davis, because he can’t be sent to the minors without his permission and the club is unlikely to cut ties with him given the huge monetary investment it has made in him.
“Believe me, he is champing at the bit,” Showalter said. “He wanted to play. He’s been wanting to play every game. It’s not something he enjoys, trust me. He wants to play and he’s looking forward to tomorrow unless I have to use him tonight. This is something Chris doesn’t like, not playing. It’s been tough for him. Really tough. But he knows what we’re all trying to accomplish and I’m looking forward to getting him back on the field tomorrow.”
What Davis has been specifically working on during his hiatus is unclear, but Showalter guarded against anticipating a different Davis when he returns to the starting lineup against Braves left-hander Sean Newcomb, who has a 2.70 ERA and is holding left-handed hitters to a .167 batting average.
“This is Chris and [hitting coach] Scott [Coolbaugh] and some other people,” Showalter said. “I’m going to kind of leave it in their hands. Are you asking if you’re going to see some drastic batting stance or a different bat or hands behind his head? I don’t know about the curiosity. If you’re expecting that and an instant return in one day, there’s a lot of other things there that Chris wanted to attack that required just backing off for a couple of days. It’s more than just a mechanical thing. I wish it was that easy, then you wouldn’t have some guys hitting less than they’re capable of.”
Davis, who is in the third year of a club-record seven-year, $161-million deal, is homerless in his past 24 games, hitting .114/.168/.136 over that stretch with 43 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances.