Athletics' Khris Davis Looks as if the Spark has Returned in Time for 2020

John Hickey

Ever since Major League Baseball settled on a 60-game schedule for the 2020 season, talk concerning the A’s has from time to time focused on how mediocre the A’s have been in their first 60 games the last two years.

Even though both seasons would end with the A’s owning 97 wins and a playoff berth, the start in 2018 was 31-29, leaving the A’s 6½ games behind, sitting in fourth place. Last year, Oakland was 30-30 after 60 games, third in the American League West and 10 games out.

If either of those scenarios play out in 2020, an Oakland team that looks on paper to be one of the best in baseball would wind up as just another also-ran.

Designated hitter Khris Davis doesn’t see things playing out that way.

“I think it’s going to be interesting, for sure,” Davis said in a conference call Friday evening. “We’ve just got to say healthy. We’re better than a lot of teams out there, so I think we have a good shot to do something.”

For his part, Davis has not been the slow starter many of his teammates have been. Two years ago, he had 20 homers and 49 RBI through 60 games, a 54-homer, 132-RBI pace. He was a little off that last year, but his 16 homers and 40 RBI had him among the league leaders.

In 2018, he was able to keep up the pace most of the way and finished as the AL homer leader with 48. Last year he fell off, badly.

That’s why when he talks about staying healthy, he’s talking from recent experience. He came down with a hip injury on May 5, and his 16 homers and 40 RBI came despite a 10-day stint on the injured list. Later he would be hit by a pitch on the hand and his numbers tailed off badly in the second half.

Back with the A’s for the first week of workouts leading up to a scheduled July 24 opener against the Angels in the Coliseum, Davis is healthy again. And if the A’s are going to put up the 33 or more wins, they’re likely to need to get into the postseason, they are going to need Davis.

Davis, however, downplays the need of the offense to generate huge numbers. He looks at an A’s lineup that cranked out an Oakland record 257 homers last year despite the fact that Davis hit just seven more homers in the A’s final 102 games and likes what he sees.

“This team is good enough right now,” Davis said. “They proved it last year. They don’t need me to go out there and hit a home run every night to win a ballgame.”

The left fielder-turned-DH will get a leg up this year from MLB’s adoption of the designated hitter in both leagues, so he won’t have to sit out games in National League cities any more. He spent baseball’s downtime working out in his garage with Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano In Arizona, and he said the three “made a pact” to practice social distancing, not just in Davis’s garage, but 24/7.

He credits them for being motivational as he got his game back together after those 2019 injuries.

“Last year I had a hip injury, then I got hit in the and, and I just didn’t have a way to overcome that physically or mentally,” Davis said. “I didn’t feel confident in my body. That kind of held me down, and I just couldn’t overcome it.

“As far as my confidence goes, I’ve just been trying to get my body in the best shape I can. And when you work out together, that helps. It’s important to work out with someone just to have someone push you. Workouts could get lonely if you’re doing it all by yourself. You definitely need help at this level.”

Davis lived through 2019 once. He’s past it now and is ready for a rebound season.

“Last year was last year and I’ve closed the chapter,” he said.

Right fielder Stephen Piscotty has been in some of the same batting groups as Davis, and when he looks at Davis, he sees 2018 and not 2019.

“That spark coming off his bat is there again,” Piscotty said, and that’s something that I recognize. He’s really driving the ball well to right and right-center, which is something I remember him doing exceptionally well. It’s a good indicator that he’s right where he needs to be.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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