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Davis' hot bat impresses Brewers brass

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By Tom Haudricourt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
August 27, 2013

Not everything to come out of the Ryan Braun drug saga has been a catastrophe for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Without Braun’s 65-game, season-ending suspension, the Brewers never would have gotten the opportunity to see much of rookie outfielder Khris Davis. And the more manager Ron Roenicke has seen Davis, the more he likes him.

“He’s doing a great job,” Roenicke said of the right-handed hitter. “He keeps showing he can hang in there against tough righties. He takes some great swings off lefties.

“He works the count well, which is what I really like. He’s an aggressive swinger; he’s not a hacker. He doesn’t just go up there and swing at everything. He swings at the pitch he wants to swing at.”

Since being recalled for his third stint with the Brewers this season on July 23—the day after Braun was suspended for evidence of performance-enhancing drug use in the Biogenesis investigation—Davis is batting .375 (24-for-64) with eight home runs and 18 RBI.

As is usually the case with young players, the 25-year-old Davis has prospered with more playing time. After making the club in spring training via an eye-popping power display, he mostly got at-bats off the bench, the most difficult job for a young player.

Accordingly, Davis struggled at the plate, batting .176 in his first two stays with the Brewers, including three games in July when Braun was on bereavement leave.

“It’s easier,” Davis said of producing when you play regularly. “You just get comfortable. That’s it—being comfortable.”

A seventh-round draft pick in 2009 out of Cal-State Fullerton, Davis had no clear path to the Brewers before Braun’s suspension. He is a left fielder only, lacking the arm strength and range to play the other outfield positions and showing no aptitude at first base during a trial there in instructional ball a few years back.

That does not mean Davis lacks for confidence, however. Both he and second baseman Scooter Gennett—also prospering (.317 batting average) with regular playing time as the replacement for injured Rickie Weeks—show no signs of intimidation in their initial foray in the big leagues.

“They have confidence. I love it,” said Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez, who knows what it’s like to struggle as a young player in the majors.

“They can hit. As long as they keep consistent, if they do this, they belong here. They have great discipline at the plate. They look like they make quick changes in their approach to each at-bat.

“They look like they have 10 years in the league.”

Davis, who has made some nice catches in left field despite his reputation as a below-average fielder, has shown an acceptable form of cockiness from the first day he showed up in spring training, which Gomez and other players like. Where does that attitude originate?

“I’m never lacking confidence,” he said. “I come to the ballpark prepared. That’s where you get confidence—with preparation. That’s easy.

“It depends on how you want to measure success, really. If you go up there and execute the plan and don’t get a hit, you’re successful to me.

“I’ve been working for this my whole life. Now that I’m here, I just want to work at my own tempo and have a good time and do something to help the team win.”

In that regard, it has been so far, so good for Davis. His path will be blocked again next year with the return of Braun, who is signed through 2020.

But it does no good for Davis to worry about that prospect, and his daily approach has made a positive impression on Roenicke.

“It’s difficult when they’re at Triple-A and you’re guessing how their game is going to play in the big leagues,” said Roenicke. “Now we get to see how it plays in the big leagues. Davis is showing me something. Scooter is showing me something.”

“I hadn’t seen (Davis) before spring training. In spring training, when he got his pitch, he hit a home run with it. Here, he’s got some plate discipline. I really like that.

“That’s going to help him to be more consistent and face some of these guys, like a funky left-hander or a side-armed right-hander. If you’re not just swinging at everything, you’ve got a chance if they make a mistake to hit it.”



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