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05/28/09 4:41 PM ET
Three strikes, and Davis may be out
First baseman must reduce number of whiffs to retain job
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are trying to be patient with first baseman Chris Davis as he tries to pull out his strikeout-laden slump. They still believe he is a big part of their future. But patience does have limits. "We've said all along that when you go with young players who you've committed to and have had some level of success, there will be growing pains," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "But at some point, you have to look at each individual and decide what's in the best interests of the individual and the team. "We're not there yet. It's obvious Chris is making a contribution with his defense, but he's nowhere near where he needs to be or can be offensively. He hasn't made the adjustments he needs to make. We're going to be patient, but he understands what he needs to do." Davis, who is 3-for-37 with 18 strikeouts in his past 11 games, probably needs to do it quickly, or he could end up back at Triple-A Oklahoma at some point. "It's come up," Daniels said. "When you've got young players struggling, you're always evaluating your options and what's the best way to put a player in a position to succeed. I can't put a timeline on it. This is not the first time or the last time that a young player who is a big part of the future has struggled. "If the work ethic is there, and he's contributing in other ways to the team, you'd be willing to give it time. The team is playing well and winning games. It's up to Chris. He needs to improve offensively, and he knows that." Davis, after going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Wednesday against the Yankees, is hitting .203 with 12 home runs and 23 RBIs in 45 games and 158 at-bats. He has struck out 71 times and walked ten times. "Obviously, it's been tough," Davis said. "When things go south, you try to blow it off, but it's always tough. I do have pride being on this team and helping this team win. Ask anybody in this clubhouse, and they will say the same thing. What we do is physically and mentally demanding, and when you don't do well, your first instinct is to get down on yourself. "For the first few weeks, I was beating myself, but I thought to myself that I've got to keep a positive mental attitude." There have been moments that allow Davis to do that. He hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Rangers a 3-2 victory over the Mariners on May 14. He hit two home runs on Wednesday against the Yankees. But the strikeout totals have been staggering. He leads the Major Leagues with seven more than Mark Reynolds of the Diamondbacks. Davis has one strikeout for every 2.39 at-bats. Over the past 50 years, that's the highest rate in the Major Leagues for a player with at least 150 at-bats in a season. Reynolds struck out once every three at-bats when he set a Major League record with 204 strikeouts last season. "I'm not concerned or frustrated by the strikeouts," Davis said. "I struck out 150 times last year and still hit .300 [Major and Minor Leagues combined] and put up good power numbers. I don't care about strikeout records or having the most in the league as long as I get this turned around. I should be doing my job, that's the most frustrating thing, is I'm letting my team down by not delivering at the plate." The Rangers have options. Hank Blalock can play first base, and he has sat out the last two games. Blalock is hitting .245 with 11 home runs and 25 RBIs. Andruw Jones has also played some at first, and manager Ron Washington is increasingly looking for ways to get him in the lineup. Then there is first baseman Justin Smoak, the Rangers' No. 1 Draft pick from last year who is hitting .324 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 40 games and 148 at-bats at Double-A Frisco. He has walked 31 times and struck out 29. He has a .443 on-base percentage. If the Rangers did make a move, it's unlikely that it would involve Smoak at this point. But that could change quickly as the summer progresses. "He's a good player, and I think he's going to be a real good player," Davis said. "But I can't think about what he's doing. I have enough to worry about with me. I know he plays the same position, and I was in the same position he was two years ago. If you worry about what's going on around you, it will drive you crazy." So what does Davis need? "A hug," he said. "Seriously," Davis said. "I just need more at-bats. The more I get out there and see pitches, the better I'll be. You can do drills until you're blue in the face, but you can't simulate game conditions. Luckily, I'm staying in the lineup because I'm playing good defense. Hopefully, that will continue, and I can get this turned around." He stays in the lineup for now, but time is running short.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.