SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Chris Davis was so despondent last September about his prolonged woes, the slumping slugger considered drastic action. He thought about walking away from the Baltimore Orioles, the game of baseball and a rich contract.
A two-time major league home run champion with a $161 million, seven-year deal, Davis has struggled mightily the last two seasons.
In 2018, he hit just .168 — the lowest among all qualified major league batters — with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs, along with 192 strikeouts in 128 games.
Last year wasn’t much better. Davis hit only .179 with 12 homers and 36 RBIs in 105 games. He also began the season hitless in his first 33 at-bats, extended an overall that reached 0 for 54.
Those sad stats were a long way from the 53 home runs he hit in 2013 and the 47 more he launched in 2015. That last bunch of longballs convinced the Orioles to hand him the biggest contract in team history, a seven-year pact at $23 million per season.
His overall totals in the first four years of the contract: a .192 batting average with only 92 homers and 230 RBIs and a .679 OPS. Plus a whopping 745 strikeouts, more than one-third of his plate appearances.
After his numbers fell so hard, Davis acknowledged he had contemplated retirement.
“I’d be lying if I told you that wasn’t at least talked about towards the end of the season last year and this offseason,” Davis said. “I know what I’m capable of. I know what I expect of myself and I don’t want to continue to just struggle and be a below-average, well-below-average producer at the plate.”
Davis, who will be 34 on March 17, decided to return to the Orioles. He’s added 25 pounds of muscle with hope that it will help bring back his lost power.
“I was really, really thin at the end of the season,” Davis said. “I think it was a combination of just physical and mental stress and I just got back to kind of some of the basics. I wanted to get my weight back up, get my strength back up, and not focus so much this offseason on trying to stay lean, but really trying to get as strong as I could. Feel a little bit more physical, physically strong, physically fit. And felt like I did what I wanted to do.”
But there’s pressure on Davis. Including deferred money, Baltimore still owes him $93 million, and he says he wants to earn that money.
“I don’t think that’s fair to these guys,” Davis said. “And I don’t think, honestly, it’s fair to our fans, or to anybody that’s associated with Baltimore. But I still think that there is something left in the tank and I think that that’s really a conversation that we’re going to have to have at the end of this season.”
“I have three years left after really two just grinding years, but I still think that there’s some time to kind of right the ship. So that’s a conversation I’ll have to have again at the end of the season.”
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde says he likes what he’s seen from Davis so far.
“The ball really came off his bat,” Hyde said after Davis’ first batting practice on Monday. “I talked to him quite a bit in the offseason. He worked really hard in the gym, and in the weight room.”
Davis conferred with his wife, Jill, and he’s ready for another attempt to equal those eye-popping numbers of the past.
“The only reason I would walk away, or would have walked away at the end of the season last year is if I physically felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, and that’s not the case,” Davis said.
NOTES: RHP Hunter Harvey and INF/OF Trey Mancini, who had been sidelined by illness were cleared to return to the field, Hyde said.
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