Part of me is sad that Chris Davis won't be on the overnight flight to Anaheim, celebrating a sweep of the Rays and five straight overall. He's instead headed for Oklahoma City, trading places with Josh Hamilton.
Sad, but not really disappointed.
It's the right move. Right for Texas, right for Davis. Short term, and long term. He's too important to what is being built here to put his psyche at any further risk, and with Texas on another roll and headed into seven crucial games with the Angels and Mariners, this lineup just works better right now with Hamilton essentially replacing Davis in the lineup. Presumably, Hank Blalock settles in for now as the everyday first baseman, and against righthanders Hamilton, David Murphy, Marlon Byrd, and Nelson Cruz will handle outfield and DH duties. Against lefties, Andruw Jones will rest someone - probably the DH - though he could be asked to play some first base.
Since May 24, Davis had started one time without striking out. He's hitting .087/.087/.130 (five strikeouts) in 23 at-bats against the Angels this year (.286/.318/.714 [eight strikeouts] in 22 at-bats against Seattle).
Aside from the importance of this seven-day road trip, what follows is four days off (July 13-16) for the All-Star Break, and one result of this move is that Davis can keep playing and return to Texas - if the club decides he's ready - in time for the beginning of the second half, when Texas hosts Minnesota on July 17, having spent the requisite 10 days on the farm. Interestingly, though, the RedHawks are idle July 13- 15 for the AAA All-Star Break, so I wonder if Davis might be transferred to Frisco for home RoughRiders games on the 13th and 14th. Frisco is off on the 15th and plays in Corpus Christi on the 16th.
Frame of reference: The Angels optioned second baseman Howie Kendrick three weeks ago, when he was hitting a punchless .231/.281/.355. In 20 AAA games, he got very healthy, hitting .346/.414/.526. He rejoined Los Angeles this weekend.
There will be moments, maybe even in every game while Davis is away, when we'll see Blalock or Jones fail to make a defensive play that Davis probably would have made. Frankly, that's a big reason why this move didn't happen until July. Davis is as good a first baseman as there is in the league, and nobody else on the active roster is even an average defender at the position. But the issues at the plate have gotten to the point at which they trump the potential glove impact, with this team squarely in a race.
Davis's postgame comments were exactly what you'd hope for from a young player, and what we'd come to expect from Davis, who will eventually be a team leader.
Davis told D Magazine's Jeff Miller: "It was only a matter of time. Obviously, I wasn't making adjustments. You can't expect them to keep sticking me out there every day, not really being any kind of a threat at the plate. I'm not down about it. You don't ever want to be sent down, but at the same time it's kind of a relief to know I can just go get my head straight and kind of take out all the outside influences away and just go get back to baseball. Give myself a chance to get back to where I need to be."
"I really appreciate how long they've stuck with me, more than they really had to," Davis added. "I think the fact that I was playing really good defense helped a little bit. We'll go back to square one tomorrow and see what we need to do."
To MLB.com's Daniel Paulling: "What I'm doing is not working. It was definitely not the Chris Davis that they thought they were getting. They know how productive I can be and I haven't been that guy. We all know how this year has gone. It's no secret. It's good that I can clear my head, take my time, figure out what's going on and get back here. I want to go out, work my tail off, get squared away and get back up there. I want to be a part of this team."
So for now, Davis and Justin Smoak, who was promoted from Frisco to Oklahoma City two days ago, will presumably share time for the RedHawks at first base and designated hitter, an arrangement that could be a preview of their big league duties in 2010 and beyond.
Monday night, as the Rangers attempt to match a season-high 11 games over .500 and shove the Angels back into second place, Davis's Omaha Royals opposition will be Sidney Ponson, against whom Davis was 2 for 5 last summer with a home run and four RBI.
(The two were never teammates. Ponson was released on June 16, 10 days before Davis debuted in the big leagues. Before that, Ponson spent the first few weeks of the season in Oklahoma, but Davis didn't join the Redhawks until May 25, after beginning the season in Frisco.)
Tuesday, Davis will face journeyman Brandon Duckworth, whom Davis has never faced. I like the fact that Davis, while in a less pressured setting, is nonetheless slated to face a couple big league veterans right away.
Another move is coming, incidentally. Dustin Nippert is reportedly going to take Vicente Padilla's start Tuesday night in Anaheim, pushing Padilla back to Wednesday or Thursday as he continues to deal with shoulder soreness. Because Nippert is on the 60-day disabled list, his activation will necessitate the removal of someone else on the 40-man roster. As I speculated in this morning's report, a transfer of Brandon McCarthy to the 60-day DL would be the most painless move to make.
But if and when non-roster members Smoak or Orlando Hernandez or Neftali Feliz are purchased, it gets a bit trickier.
That's for another time. For now, it's going to be strange seeing Texas take the field without Davis, but the bottom line is that this was a decision that, all things considered, I'm absolutely OK with, and it's good to see that Davis himself is as well. It's a move that's going to pay off for everyone.