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Orioles' Chris Davis on Aug. 26 regional cover of Sports Illustrated

Davis is closing in on the Orioles' single-season record of 50 home runs, set by Brady Anderson in 1996. (Tom DiPace)

Chris Davis, Orioles

In 2008 and 2009, his first two seasons in the major leagues, Chris Davis hit a total of 38 home runs as a part-time player for the Texas Rangers. He hit just six the next two years combined and began to wonder if he would make it in the bigs. Davis, who was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 2011, has proved emphatically this season that he is here to stay. The O's first baseman leads the majors with 45 home runs and appears this week on a regional cover of Sports Illustrated.

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Senior writer Tom Verducci charts Davis' rise from being a frustrated part-timer who was twice demoted to the minors in 2010 to becoming the majors' top slugger just three years later. The first step was some advice Davis got from an AL East rival that Davis says now "was like a revelation in my life." The second step was to rebuild his swing, from his stance to his stride to the movement of his head. The changes were transformative. In 2012, his first season with more than 500 at-bats, Davis hit 33 home runs, eighth-best in the AL. This year, he has not only already established personal bests in runs, walks, home runs and RBIs, he is on pace for career highs in hits, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He is also helping keep Baltimore in the thick of the AL playoff chase as the O's seek their second consecutive postseason berth.

LEMIRE: Breakout season comes easy for Davis but journey to stardom didn't