Davis looks for hot start

After undergoing minor foot surgery in the offseason, power-hitting infielder Chris Davis is currently making the transition from third to first base. Lone Star Dugout recently spoke with the 22-year-old prospect, who is looking to shake his reputation as a slow starter.

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Chris Davis busted out in a big way in 2007 when the slugger batted .297 with 36 home runs and 118 RBIs between two levels.

The former fifth round pick's overall numbers were obviously strong, but it was an adjustment Davis made between High-A and Double-A that was particularly impressive.

Even after Davis hit .298 with 24 home runs and 93 RBIs in just 99 California League games – while tying a league-record with his 35-game hitting streak – he still had his critics. Many viewed Davis as too much of a free-swinger to sustain success at the higher levels. While in Bakersfield, Davis struck out 123 times [versus just 22 walks] in only 386 at-bats.

Davis not only acknowledged the issue, he took it upon himself to correct it almost immediately. Upon his promotion to Frisco, Davis committed to becoming a more patient hitter. The native Texan saw instant results, as he finished Double-A season with 13 walks and 27 strikeouts in 107 at-bats. With a .294 average, seven doubles, and 12 home runs over that span, Davis' power numbers didn't exactly take a hit either.

The Rangers chose Davis to play in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League after his 2007 regular season had ended. But Davis would play in just three games before undergoing surgery to remove an extra bone in his foot. Davis says he played with the nagging injury for the entire 2007 season, perhaps making his statistics even more impressive.

Davis' busy offseason continued when the Rangers chose to move him across the diamond to first base. The 22-year-old had spent the last season at third base, where he struggled with errors, but had the plus arm to play the position. Regardless, the Rangers felt first base was where Davis' future lied and there are virtually no first basemen blocking his path to the big leagues.

Lone Star Dugout interviewed Davis after he tripled and homered in a recent minor league spring training game.

Jason Cole: I saw your triple and home run out there today. What did you do in your first at-bat?

Chris Davis: I struck out looking. I'm trying to see some pitches. I know I talked to Scott Servais and Scott Coolbaugh a little bit about trying to see a few more breaking pitches, fastballs, and really just getting my rhythm and timing back. I had a few at-bats the last few days that were too quick – I wasn't seeing enough pitches. I think the biggest thing today was being able to see a lot of pitches that first at-bat. It kind of set the tone for my second and third at-bat.

Cole: Can you take me through your home run at-bat?

Davis: I know Mike Adams. I believe that's who was pitching. He's a hard-thrower and I was just trying to look for something out over the plate. I was trying to stay back – my big thing has been me getting off my back side too early and not really utilizing my power. I just tried to stay back on my back leg and hit it to the left side of the field. I got a fastball I could handle and was able to drive it.

Cole: As a big power hitter, you don't get many chances to leg out triples, but you did get one today. Were you a bit winded coming into third base?

Davis: Actually yesterday the guy bobbled it in centerfield and I ended up on third. I mean I'm probably not going to leg out too many triples, but it feels good every once in awhile to mix one in.

Cole: You got some time in big league spring training games and seemed to hit pretty well. How did you feel about your performance there?

Davis: I felt good. The first few games, I was a little uncomfortable just as far as being at a new position and being around some new guys. It was a good group of guys to be around and I think it was a good experience to take a lot away from. I felt good at the plate and left there feeling like I had made some prides in the right direction.

Cole: You mentioned the position change. How do you feel about going from third base to first?

Davis: I feel good. Like I said, it took a couple of games because I felt a little uncomfortable. But the more I played there, the better I feel. And I've played there before. It's just going to take a little bit of time to get re-adjusted back over there.

Cole: How much first base have you played in the past?

Davis: I played in my sophomore year of college and in Spokane I probably played about 30 games there. It has been some time here and there, but when you're doing it everyday, you want to get as comfortable as you possibly can.

Cole: What have you been working on most in the field?

Davis: I think being able to move around a little bit. I had surgery on my foot in the offseason. I dropped some pounds and I think that has really helped me out a lot with my footwork. That's what I've really been working on, getting my feet in the right position. If I do that, my hands will do the job.

Cole: How is your foot feeling right now?

Davis: It's doing good. The first few weeks we were out here, it was a little sore from all of the activity we had been doing. I wasn't really used to it. But it feels good now – I haven't even been taping it. It hasn't really bothered me in about three or four weeks.

Cole: Do you feel that the surgery will help your range in the field?

Davis: I think so. I took some ground balls at third the other day just to kind of see where I was range-of-motion wise. I felt good. I felt like I was moving side-to-side real well and I got a lot of my range back.

Cole: Is there one thing that you're really trying to get accomplished right now?

Davis: I don't want to tag myself, but I'm kind of notorious for slow starts. I got off to a slow start in Spokane and a slow start in Bakersfield. I think the biggest thing for me is to come out of spring training hot. That way you don't have to pull your batting average out of the cellar 30 or 40 games into the season. The biggest thing for me is just to get my rhythm and timing and to feel comfortable and leaving spring training on a good note.

Cole: Have you set any personal goals for this season?

Davis: Last year my goal was .300, 30, and 100. This year I'm kind of going to keep the same goal. It's just something to shoot for. I don't want to be known as a power guy who strikes out a lot. I want to be known as a .300 hitter who can drive the ball and is a good RBI and run producer. I think I'm going to use kind of the same guidelines – definitely working on my strikeout-to-walk ratio. I want to be a little more patient at the plate, taking some pitches that could be borderline.

Cole: When you got promoted to Double-A last year, you told me you wanted to become more patient at the plate. It seemed like you were able to accomplish that. Do you feel that your plate discipline is still improving?

Davis: I was able to get up in Frisco over the last month and really see some pitches and grind out some at-bats. I think that's one thing that has got to be a consistent thing to me. I want to be a tough out, not just a guy where people think ‘ok, if we get two strikes on him, he's done'. I think that is coming along as well.

Cole: Did it feel weird at first to go up there and take pitches? Was it almost like you were having to force yourself to do it?

Davis: It was tough at first because I like to swing. Obviously I'm a free-swinger. But once I started getting into the rhythm of knowing where the strike zone was and knowing where the pitches I could handle were, I think it became a little bit easier. It allowed me more room for error.

Cole: I know you will be starting in Frisco this season. Have the Rangers indicated whether or not you will get a chance in the Majors this season?

Davis: You know, it's been talked about a little bit. We're just going to have to see how it goes. Once the season starts it is kind of anything goes. Some people get hurt, people get hot. I know that they want me to play at first base and they want me to be there every day. They want me to get as many at-bats as I can. If the time comes and they feel like I'm ready then hopefully I'll get a shot.

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