Six days after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, left-hander Doug Davis will pitch Thursday as if nothing has changed.
Davis is to start against Cincinnati, the first of two scheduled
starts before he undergoes surgery to remove the thyroid April 10. Team
doctors have said he faces a four- to six-week recovery period.
"I'm still trying to get past the fact that he has what he has, let alone he is going to go out and pitch with it," manager Bob Melvin said. "He tries to downplay it and keep everything as normal as he can. We feel it. We know what he is going through and has to go through. You have to tip your hat to him."
As Orlando Hudson said: "He's strong, man. Strong."
In a meeting with Melvin and pitching coach Bryan Price last Friday, Davis convinced both he was ready and able to make his two starts, and the D-Backs medical staff has said there is nothing from a health standpoint that would prevent Davis from pitching
"From the minute I talked to him, he was talking me into starting. Nothing that he has done or said indicated he has any trepidation about pitching," Melvin said.
Davis set a career high with 13 victories last season and was especially valuable in the second half, winning eight of his first nine decisions after the All-Star break as the team carried on without Randy Johnson. This season, it may be Johnson who has to rush off the disabled list to take Davis' place.
Statistics Courtesy of
Davis' cancer will be treated by surgery rather than chemotherapy, which should reduce the recovery time significantly. Davis would not be the first baseball player to come back strong after cancer should he indeed make a strong recovery. The Red Sox' Mike Lowell and Jon Lester each recovered from forms of cancer, as has current Diamondbacks outfield coordinator and former All-Star Brett Butler.
"I know I'm not alone. I have all the help in the world, and I'm
definitely optimistic about the outcome," said Davis, who set a career
high in victories while going 13-12 with a 4.25 ERA in his first season
with the Diamondbacks in 2007.
Yusmeiro Petit is a candidate to replace Davis in the starting rotation, although Randy Johnson also could step in if he's ready by that time. Johnson is to make his next start in Class AAA Tucson's regular-season opener Thursday, and he is likely to need at least one more tune-up.
"It's very straightforward," Diamondbacks team physician Michael Lee said of Davis' surgery, calling the prognosis for a full recovery good.
"If he wasn't a pitcher, he'd be back to normal duties and activities of daily living very quickly. Because of the exertion that he puts out in his job ... it's going to be a bit longer."
A return to normalcy for Davis doesn't mean a return to overwhelming stuff.
Even though he doesn't like being referred to as a crafty lefty, he does retire
batters more on guile and enticing them to chase pitches out of the strike zone
than attacking hitters with devastating stuff. That distinction could aid
Davis upon his comeback, as a couple of ticks off his fastball probably wouldn't
affect his pitching the way it would a power pitcher like Johnson.
Davis started in an exhibition game against Colorado on Friday, two days after learning the diagnosis. He gave up eight runs in 2 2/3 innings, but he said pitching took his mind off the cancer. The cancer is on the minds of Diamondbacks fans everywhere, however. We wish Doug and his entire family well, hoping first for a clean bill of health, and second, for an against-the-odds quality pitching season.
We end with words from Doug's father, Mike Davis.
"Doug has beaten a lot of things in his life," his father said. "This is probably the worst, but he has come back. He has a great mind-set. He wants to start. He wants to do his job. He is very set on this."
Prediction: 8-9, 4.71 ERA, 149.2 IP
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