The Kansas City Royals took a fair bit of flak when they made the trade that brought Wade Davis and his more famous teammate, James Shields, to a starting rotation that badly needed help.
After all, they’d given up Wil Myers, the best hitting prospect in baseball, and a pair of the organizations top farm hands. Shields is a proven front-line pitcher, sure. But Davis? Davis wasn’t even deemed good enough for the back end of the Tampa Bay Rays rotation in 2012 after he lost that job in spring to Jeff Niemann.
Granted, that was one of the best rotations in all of baseball down in Tampa Bay, but considering that the Royals mortgaged a good chunk of the farm, you couldn’t blame the fans for questioning the logic of getting a back-end starter as a secondary piece.
The team, though, never doubted that Davis could be much more. So far in spring, that belief is being vindicated. It has only been two outings, but the 27-year old righty is arguably the biggest head-turner in the Royals pitching staff right now in camp.
Why care about five innings of work? Well, it’s hard not to when those innings have been just about flawless – Davis has yet to allow a run or a walk, and has just giving up three total hits with three strikeouts.
Small sample size or not, that’s a pretty good sign for the Royals.
In his last outing, Davis and the Royals took on the Cincinnati Reds in an early-game pitchers duel with Homer Bailey that did not disappoint, as the two starters matched each other step for step.
Scheduled for three innings, Davis probably could have gone on a little further because of his efficiency. Aside from a two-out double to Joey Votto in the first and a second one to Devin Mesoraco the third, Davis kept the bases clear while striking out three, and left the game with a promising 2-0 GO-FO ratio.
Speaking to Dick Kaegel of MLB.com, Davis credits to his early success to his mission to throw more change-ups, saying that he “probably threw 10 today, and had a couple [of] ground balls and [the Reds] put some bad swings on ’em.”
While in the bullpen with the Rays last season, Davis also experimented with his repertoire, throwing his curveball more often than in years past. It lead to a career-best 2.43/1.09 ERA/WHIP with a characteristic 11.13 K/9 over 70.1 innings in 2012.
Starting is a whole different animal, of course, but Kansas City is hoping that Davis can make similar adjustments to be a more effective starter – and he’s showing the ability to do just that.
He might have been known as just a back-end starter so far, but don’t be surprised if Davis, entering his age-27 prime, ends the season near the front as the Royals No. 2 starter.