Davis Continues To Roll

TAMPA, FL - After a stellar start to the 2015 season, Rookie Davis is proving that it was no fluke. He has been one of the most consistent pitchers for the Tampa Yankees this year as he sports a 3.55 ERA for the year.

“As the season has gone on, his command has gotten better and his offspeed pitches have gotten better,” manager Dave Bialas said.

He had an amazing month of April. He finished the month with a 1.66 ERA, a 0.74 WHIP and a .167 batting average against. He also struck out 26 batters and only walked three.

Fastball command has been the best thing for Davis this year. Although he gave up the cutter this offseason, the fastball he throws now has a little bit of a cut to it because of the increase in velocity. He can hit 98 MPH and tends to sit at 93-94 MPH. He understands how important it is to be able to throw his fastball down in the zone.

“I’ve mentioned it a lot this year, but fastball command is so important for me because it opens up a lot for me,” Davis said.

His fastball isn’t the only pitch to get an uptick in velocity. Davis said he has added velocity to his curveball which has in turn given the pitch late bite. He is very confident in the pitch and will throw it in any count.

To be a starter at the big league level Davis is going to have to develop a third pitch. He has been working with pitching coach Tommy Phelps this year on a changeup that will complete his repertoire.

“The changeup has been a big focus for us this year,” Phelps said. “He needs to throw it enough to have confidence in the pitch.”

Oddly enough, Davis has reverse splits against lefties and righties. He has a 2.96 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP and a 30:9 K/BB ratio versus lefties compared to a 4.06 ERA and 1.23 WHIP and a 39:3 K/BB ratio versus righties.

“I feel really comfortable throwing to left-handed hitters,” Davis said. “I feel comfortable going arm side and going in on them. I think the cut fastball gets on lefties with the late break.”

Davis likes throwing the changeup to righties. Seeing as the pitch is a work-in-progress, it may be safe to assume the splits will start to even out once he really gets a feel for it. Phelps doesn’t think the reverse splits are anything of concern, although Davis mentioned that Phelps spoke with him about it in the pitchers' meeting on Monday.

May could prove to be the turning point in Davis’ career. The numbers will not back it up but after every one of his poor outings in May he turned around and posted solid numbers in the next game.

Davis believes that going to the sports psychologist has helped him be a better self-evaluator and it also helped him keep his composure during those rough patches. Phelps has noticed it as well and said how well Davis has been able to regroup and just focus on the next pitch.

“I was trying to be too fine in May and not trust my stuff,” Davis said. “With my fastball, I don’t need to pick on the corners going for black early in the count. I’d start falling behind hitters, which is tough especially with the good hitters in the Florida State League.”

Davis feels he threw the ball better than the numbers -- 4.91 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and a .309 BAA -- would indicate and he thinks he was only a pitch away from getting out of it in a lot of cases.

Davis suffered from back stiffness in May that held him out of one start which could also be a factor in the poor May numbers. Phelps and Davis both agreed that it was precautionary more than anything. Bialas couldn’t even remember what it was that bothered him, it was that insignificant.

Davis has had three poor outings this year, and the stat line for those games combined are: 9.2 inning, 21 hits, 14 earned runs for a 13.03 ERA and a 2.69 WHIP with a 9:5 K/BB ratio. In the games directly following those outings his stat line was: 15 innings, 20 hits, three earned runs for a 1.80 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP with an 18:3 K/BB ratio.

Davis spent the All-Star break with his family and girlfriend. He played golf and went to the beach with his friends. Asked if he felt snubbed about not making the All-Star team, he played it coy.

“There are a lot of great pitchers in the Florida State League,” Davis said. “To me, it’s more motivation so I appreciate them for doing that.”

More motivation is the last thing he needs. Davis is averaging 10.6 strikeout per nine innings this year, well above his career average of 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Because of his struggles last season, Davis said he was just concerned with getting an out. This year is a totally different story, he’s going for the strikeout with two strikes.

“This year, I want to finish them,” Davis said. “I don’t want them to think they have a chance. I don’t want to give second chances. I don’t want soft contact. I want to beat them and I want them to go back to the dugout and know I beat them.”

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