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Baltimore fans welcome back Chris Davis

First came Tuesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays, his first competitive baseball game in 209 days. Then came the plane ride back to Baltimore late Wednesday night, when he realized his next game would be before a crowd that desperately missed him and his bat during the 2014 American League Championship Series run.

With each moment Friday, from his ovation as he trotted down the orange carpet during introductions to his first two hits of the season, first baseman Chris Davis and Orioles fans moved further past the suspension that shortened his 2014 season and closer to what both sides hope will be a productive 2015.

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"I think the fans realize that Chris has missed it, and they have missed him, and they understand the reason why," manager Buck Showalter said. "Now, it's about, can you help us win? Chris understands that he controls this. People are always waiting to embrace you, if you can give them something to embrace you for. Nobody wants to stand up and boo and be unhappy with you. It's up to you."

Davis' focus after Friday's home opener was on the disappointment of losing, 12-5, to a Toronto Blue Jays team aiming to take away the AL East crown the Orioles clinched during his 25-game suspension in September for testing positive for amphetamines, a banned substance under Major League Baseball's drug policy.

But on a personal note, he confirmed his own suspicions that the fans still supported him, and broke a seven at-bat hitless streak to start the season in the process.

Davis singled with one out in the third inning, and scraped the top of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field — his second just-missed home run of the game — in the eighth inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, Davis hit a fly ball that left fielder Kevin Pillar leaped into the wall to catch, missing a home run by feet and extra bases by inches.

"I feel like you take a good swing, drive the ball, a guy makes a great play," Davis said. "Then you kind of just flick one and it hits off the wall."

Even if Davis dismissed his double, Showalter said it was an impressive piece of hitting.

"That's a strong swing," Showalter said. "The ball he hit off the wall in right field, if you go back and look at where that pitch was, that's a hard ball to lift that deep to right field. He hit three balls pretty well today."

Davis said he began to feel like things were normal again Tuesday at Tampa Bay, when he returned to the lineup after sitting out the first game of the season to finish his suspension. After the game Friday, he said it "was nice to have a warm reception."

"You always look forward to the home opener, no matter what's happened in the past," Davis said.

On Friday, the home opener allowed him to carry on some previously held traditions. Before the game, he jokingly placed his name on a clubhouse magnet board as the leadoff hitter and starting shortstop, as is his Opening Day custom.

During the orange-carpet introductions, a moment when a day earlier he joked that he might drop to his knees and cry, Davis' ovation lagged slightly behind those of Manny Machado and Adam Jones, but was roaring nonetheless.

Fans welcomed the sight of Davis back in the home white uniform.

"That was a terrible occurrence," Ben Davis, 40, of Columbia said of the suspension. He wore a Davis T-shirt that read "Crush" on the back, and was at the home opener with his 13-year-old son, Arman. "Slightly unfair, but the rules are the rules."

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From a perception standpoint, Sarah Robinson, 28, of Glen Burnie believes Friday turned the page on that incident for Davis and fans.

"It was great," she said of his return. "I thought it would be a little mixed, but it was good to see the support he got today. … He made a mistake, and I really hope he learned his lesson. He seems to be really sincere."

twitter.com/JonMeoli

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