When the Pittsburgh Pirates were rumored to have an interest in former New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis during the winter months, Davis had his fingers crossed.
“I did kind of want the Pirates because my brother lives in Sarasota area, I wanted to spring train there,” Davis said. “But it didn’t work out that way. Hopefully next year.”
This year, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is looking forward to drawing on what he called a “clean chalkboard” for Davis after the 27-year-old endured a rough 2013 season in which spent time in the minor leagues.
The skipper said he had a conversation with his new player this afternoon, but didn’t want to “overload” him.
“I told him we’ll catch up as we go along, I welcomed him,” Hurdle said. “We believe he’s going to add value to our club. I reinforced the fact that he doesn’t need to carry our club.”
General manager Neal Huntington said Friday he is betting the Pirates can get Davis back on the right track to the form he showed when he hit 32 home runs and posted a .770 OPS in 2012. The first baseman showed glimpses of that form in the late months of 2013 before he was shut down with a severe oblique strain on Aug. 31.
Prior to that, Davis hit seven home runs in 92 plate appearances during his stint in Triple-A Las Vegas. Upon his return, Davis recorded a .736 OPS in 76 plate appearances in the month of July and a .990 OPS in 94 turns at the plate in August.
When he returned to the big leagues, Davis said his most important adjustment wasn’t a mechanical one but just trusting himself more.
“Your hands are fast enough to hit fastballs, you don’t need to cheat,” Davis said. “When you cheat, you don’t see the ball as well. I’m not cheating anymore, I’m just trying to see it and hit it.”
While Davis said it was weird leaving the only organization he’s been a member of for his entire career, he looks forward to a clean slate.
“It’s a good thing to play for someone that wants you and you’re getting good playing time and you get a fresh start,” Davis said. “Just sometimes you can get in a little rut, in the same spot over and over and over. Hopefully I can let my talents come out and help the team.”
In Pittsburgh, Davis will have that chance as he pairs with Gaby Sanchez in Hurdle’s first base platoon. The lefty will primarily draw starts against right-handed pitching and will receive more playing time than he received in New York (25 plate appearances in 11 games) which he said is most important for him right now.
“I feel like I have the right mentality right now and worked on the right stuff in the offseason to have a better performance during the season and I just need to get out there and do it.”
It should also help that Davis enters a healthy situation Pittsburgh after his situation with the Mets soured of late.
“It was pretty negative over there for me for a little while and hopefully I can come here and create some positive energy and start building forward and start playing better,” Davis said.
For one, it helps that the Pirates are building off their first trip to the playoffs in 20 years while the Mets are stuck in a transition period. As a Pirate, Davis wants to help build.
“I haven’t gone to the playoffs in my career,” Davis said. “I haven’t really had too many winning seasons either so it’d be nice to hopefully jump on the Pirates bandwagon too.”