Padres Prospect Interview: Erik Davis

The real Erik Davis may not have appeared this season after being overused in college. But the right-hander's approach to the game this year with Eugene was one that eyed improvement each day. He never wanted to give a day or pitch away – and it may stem from the fact that he was almost out of baseball a scant two years ago.

You've got an interesting story; almost out of baseball, come back, have a successful year at Stanford, now you're in professional baseball. What's the mental process been like over the last two years for you?

Erik Davis: The reason I was able to get to where I am today is because I was able to take it one step at a time, one day at a time; one little goal that I set and was able to accomplish at a time. It has always been a goal of mine to become a professional baseball player.

Once I was hurt, there were some other goals that were put in front of that, like being able to get back; get healthy enough to be able to where I could play, that was a goal. Also, getting back to being competitive and also becoming successful to where I was before.

Once I was able to accomplish both of those things, I was able to really fully put my injury behind me and kind of just continue on the path that I was already on before that.

You talked and you said a lot of things there that kind of almost equate to what Eugene manager Greg Riddoch preaches: smaller goals, take it that one step at a time. How has he been able to help you become a better player and better person?

Erik Davis: I'm starting to see everything in a whole new light. I read a book that I talked to Riddoch about. He actually knows the author; it's called ‘The Mental Game of Baseball'. A lot of the things I read in there is stuff that he preaches. It's a big thing to help me, because whenever I would have trouble this past season, I would often go back to that book and look through some things in order to help me regain focus. With Riddoch every day, it has helped me not have to go back to the book; I can just go right to the source, him. He's been a big help so far. I'm really glad I've been able to start off my career with him, hopefully get such a good base to build off from.

What kind of changes have you gone through since you've been here in just this short time?

Erik Davis: The whole year I was a starter (at Stanford), and when I come here, I'm just a reliever. Getting used to relieving has been a little difficult for me because it's one thing knowing when you're going to pitch every time. Coming to the park every day, you don't know if you're going to pitch today, tomorrow or the next day.

While it's not hard to maintain focus, it's definitely hard to keep an even keel and not get too excited, too down on a day-to-day basis. Whereas, when I was a starter, I'm paying attention, to a certain degree every day, but I've been able to fully mentally prepare the night before a start and the morning before and all that. If I was to do that now, I would just exhaust myself. It's kind of going about everything a different way. I'm still in the learning process, but I think I'm making minor improvements every day.

Do you feel like your stuff is back to where you expect it to be?

Erik Davis: No, it's still not. I threw a lot of innings this year; I was over a hundred innings before I even came here. So, my arm is a little tired. It's just taking me getting back into shape to where I can become effective. I'm getting there slowly but surely, but I'm still a little bit away, but I'm working as hard as I can to get to where I need to be.

Do you feel like it's suffering in the mechanics too because you're tired? The tendency is to open up, or not get extension.

Erik Davis: When I'm tired, my arm will start to drop and then I'll try to compensate; start bodying the ball towards the plate. I'm talking to our pitching coach, (Dave) Rajsich, a lot about that; trying not to, instead of compensating, try to work through it and build up strength that way because, if you try to fight it, then you're really prohibiting your improvement in building up your arm strength. So, that's what I've been doing, and I think I've been seeing some good improvement. So, hopefully, if I just keep doing that, I should be back to really where I should be.

Riddoch has been a guy who preaches journals for everybody. Is that something you're familiar with?

Erik Davis: It's something that I'm a little familiar with. When we were at school, we had these pitchers journals where, after every outing, we would fill out and we would provide goals of the days.

I think that's a very useful tool that enabled not only myself, but our team, to have a really successful year this year because it really puts everything in perspective to where when you look at a calendar, all you see is dates and 60-70 games in front of you. When you break it up day by day, it seems a lot more manageable because you're able to see ‘well, tomorrow, this is what I have to do.' It doesn't look like one big mess; it looks like a very ordered system.

So, what are some of the things that you worked on this season?

Erik Davis: I'm working on pretty much building up my arm strength every day. I'm working on my mechanics. Once I'm able to get to that, I'll be able to start improving locating my pitches and my off speed stuff a little bit. Just getting used to pitching with wood bats because pitching in college, there are a lot of positives and negatives too it. Positives being you're getting experience against really good players; negatives, you have to pitch not really to contact, you try to miss contact because of those aluminum bats.

In professional baseball, it's a totally different game where the hitter has to do it; go an extra effort to really square up the ball. It's something that you kind of have to re-learn as a pitcher. Once I get my arm strength back where I can just work on pitching, specifically I think, that will be a big thing which will help me pretty much improve as a pitcher overall I think.

Never give the hitters too much credit, right?

Erik Davis: Right.

So, is there a player in the major leagues today that you have always idolized and though what he does on and off the field has always impressed me?

Erik Davis: I've always had tremendous respect for Mark Prior, not only because of what he did. At the college level, I was able to see him pitch for USC. After I got hurt, he was one of the people that would stay in contact with me and really help me get through what I was going through, because he went through the whole thing with his arm when he got hit. It helped to have somebody who maybe didn't go through the exact same thing, but went through something similar.

That's pretty awesome. So, have you gotten into contact with him since his last one?

Erik Davis: No, I have not.

Do you look at this year just as a learning experience and next year where "I get to show my true form"?

Erik Davis: I think right now, I'm kind of operating with only one leg under me so to speak because I'm about 100 innings behind everybody. At the same time, I think there's a lot I can learn by just watching people who have been in professional baseball for a few years ahead of me. Because it's definitely a different game; it definitely takes a whole different mental thought.

It's easy for position players to say, give at-bats away; it's easy for pitchers to kind of just give days away where you could be working on something before. Since this is the same thing every day, it's easy to forget two or three days in a row and then realize that you didn't get better over those two, three days. That's definitely something I can work on, no matter what. Even if I don't pitch another inning this whole year, I can still work on the business side of it where I'm trying to get better every day. That's something I've really been paying attention to so far.

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