Rajai Davis eager to get started in second stint with A’s
MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Rajai Davis pulled on his Athletics cap straight away when he walked into Hohokam Stadium, then grabbed his sparkling new white cleats specked with green and took an admiring glance at the shoes before reaching for his green No. 11 jersey and putting it on right over his long-sleeve shirt with black slacks.
“I got to get this green and gold back on,” Davis said, beaming, “Nice to be back ... in the green and gold.”
Davis returned Thursday to start a second stint in Oakland and is eager to carry the momentum from his World Series run with Cleveland last fall to make the A’s a contender again when nobody expects it. This club finished last in the AL West the past two seasons.
Davis bounced around the ballpark saying his hellos and still riding the momentum of reaching the World Series. The speedy 36-year-old AL stolen bases leader received a $6 million, one-year contract last month to come back to the A’s for the first time since 2010.
“A lot of familiar faces,” he said. “I think I’ve seen ’em all. If I haven’t, I will.”
Finding a new everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter was a top priority this offseason.
“Raj is a very infectious personality,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s happy to be here, he’s got a smile on his face, he’s been here before coming back to an organization. He’s one of those guys that just kind of puts you in a good mood.”
Matt Joyce, expected to platoon in right field with Mark Canha, also arrived in camp to join his new team. And he was ready for some sunshine after leaving the snow in Connecticut and flying cross-country with wife Brittany, 1-month-old daughter, Kensington, and three dogs. Black lab, Eli, and golden retriever, Sky, were beneath the plane while white Maltese, Ru, rode in the main cabin.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of being part of a turnaround,” said Joyce, who signed an $11 million, two-year deal in December.
The 32-year-old journeyman batted .242 with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs last year for Pittsburgh. A regular pinch hitter, he started 30 games in right field and is slated to be in the lineup against right-handed starters.
It was Joyce who helped influence the hitting routine used by A’s catcher Stephen Vogt to this day after their time together with the Rays in 2012.
“He’s going to bring a lot to this clubhouse,” Vogt said.
Davis already has. He batted .249 with 12 homers and 48 RBIs in 134 games during his lone season with the Indians, his sixth major league team. He had 23 doubles and two triples.
“I expect to win,” he said.
With 43 stolen bases, Davis became the fourth-oldest player to lead the league in steals after Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson in 1998 and Eddie Collins in 1923 and ’24.
The Indians were a surprise World Series team, and Davis believes the A’s can point to that example — and he certainly plans to mention that along the way.
“New season, new team, new hopes, high hopes for something big,” Davis said. “When you get a little taste of the World Series, you want that taste again. You want to enjoy that moment again. I think that attitude does spread, especially with what your team did to get there. A lot of that was just playing as a team. You might not have a lot of big names on that team but the team played together. That’s why we were able to win. I’m just thankful that I had the opportunity, somebody seeing that this guy can actually help us win and actually put me out there.”
That memorable eighth-inning home run he hit to tie it in Game 7 of the Indians’ eventual 8-7, 10-inning loss to the Cubs is still big for Davis, who is as confident as ever after Cleveland gave him a chance that he so cherished.
Now, he can’t wait to get to work with Henderson again on base stealing, noting that during his previous stint with the A’s, “Rickey told me to go, I went.”
And to play alongside slugger Khris Davis, Oakland’s left fielder.
“How about that? That’s like my brother from another mother,” Rajai Davis said. “We’ve got new Bash Brothers, the Davis Brothers.”
Joked Melvin, “I’m OK with him hitting a single in there now and then, too, so he can turn it into a triple on his own.”
Notes: A.J. Puk, a 6-foot-7 lefty chosen sixth overall by the A’s in last year’s draft, threw his first bullpen session — something Melvin looked forward to watching.