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Milwaukee Brewers' Khris Davis gains steam in Boston

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By Tom Haudricourt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 8, 2014

PHILADELPHIA--During the Brewers' game Saturday night, with Khris Davis in the midst of an impressive four-hit game against Boston at Fenway Park, a well-known and respected Japanese reporter who covered Norichika Aoki's two years in Milwaukee walked over to beat writers in the press box.

“I see now why the Brewers traded Aoki,” the reporter said. “That was a good decision. Khris Davis can hit.”

Indeed, he can.

When the Brewers made the somewhat unpopular trade of Aoki to Kansas City for left-hander Will Smith over the winter, it was done in large part to open left field for Davis, with Ryan Braun making the move to right. Davis does not have a strong arm, so it was left field or bust.

Throwing arm aside, Davis' bat prompted the club's decision-makers to get him in the lineup on a regular basis. The 26-year-old Californian gave a preview of things to come last season by batting .279 with 11 home runs and 27 runs batted in through 56 games.

When you average a home run every 12.36 at-bats, it gets people's attention. Not knowing at the time that Braun's chronic thumb issue would flare up again early this season, general manager Doug Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke envisioned a barrage of long balls from their corner outfielders.

And it was Braun who gave Davis some sage advice about the upcoming season before the club broke spring training in Phoenix.

“Braun told me I don't have to take this team and put it on my shoulders,” recalled Davis, a seventh-round draft pick out of Cal-State Fullerton in 2009.

“If I just do the little things, like get the runner over from second (base) in the second inning, little (at-bats) like that will go a long way for this team and this offense. I don't have to impress anybody. Just do the little things right and I'll be fine.

“I talk to him a lot. … A lot of the vets are looking out for me right here and I'm thankful I have them. They definitely make me feel comfortable as far as not having to put too much pressure on myself to perform.”

Yet Davis was feeling a bit of pressure when he went hitless in eight at-bats in the opening series against Atlanta. It was a very small sample size but no player—15-year veteran or rookie—wants to come out of the first series of the season with three goose eggs for a batting average.

With some advice from hitting coach Johnny Narron about making a small adjustment at the plate, Davis tore into Boston's pitching during the Brewers' three-game sweep of the defending World Series champions. He went 8 for 15 (.533) with four doubles, six runs scored and one RBI.

That's how you transform a .000 batting average into a .348 mark in a span of three games.

“(The Atlanta series) was out of my mind on the off day,” Davis said in the cozy visitors clubhouse after the series finale Sunday. “I moved forward. You've got to have a short-term memory.

“I have something to build off of, and I'm just going to carry that on. It's a long season. You've got to take the same approach and not try to do too much.

“I can't control if I get a hit, but if I hit the ball hard, I can live with that. I've just got to stay under control and do what I know how to do. It's still the same game. That's been said before. It's just nice to come prepared, knowing you're going to play.”

During the Boston series, Davis took full advantage of Fenway Park, smacking liners off the Green Monster seemingly at will. And while he pulled the ball almost exclusively in that series, Roenicke said you can't just pitch Davis away.

“You saw last year the balls he hit to right-center,” Roenicke said. “He can hit. He's not a pull hitter. Not with the pop we saw last year.

“He's got big-time pop everywhere. For a little guy (5 foot 11, 188 pounds), really surprising. That's bat speed.”

As with most of the hitters in the Brewers' lineup, Davis is a free swinger who doesn't take many pitches or draw a lot of walks. Because of the Davis' power and run-production potential, Roenicke said he could live with that.

“I think he's an important guy,” said Roenicke, who has been batting Davis sixth in the lineup. “I think the combination of him and when I have (Logan) Schafer in there, they're important. We talk about us not being an on-base team. We're not a team that works counts, so we have to be deep through the lineup as far as bashing the ball.

“You can't count on just the top five guys in the lineup. You better swing it all through the lineup. And I think we have guys who can. Khris Davis can hit.”



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