Chris Davis is trying to forget last year.
Yes, the Baltimore Orioles first baseman hit 38 home runs and drove in 84 runs. But early last season – the first of a seven-year, $161-million contract – Davis suffered a left-hand injury diving into a base and felt the effects of it throughout the year.
He still played in 157 games – second-most in his major-league career, but hit just .221 and struck out 219 times.
Davis said the off-season was what he needed.
"I think the biggest thing was really the rest and the time off and not having the physical contact and the beating that I did every day when I was swinging and taking balls at first base. Really, after the first three or four weeks, the swelling went completely away and I haven't had anything, any issues or swelling since I started hitting. So, I think the biggest thing is just rest and obviously didn't have time to rest during the season last year," Davis said.
Manager Buck Showalter knew how much Davis was hurting, but knew there was little he could do about it. The slugger would have to take many weeks off, and he was still helping the team – both offensively and defensively.
"It would be different if it was like, he could take two weeks off and it's going to be fine, but when you get that deep an injury like that, nothing but a real extended period" helps, Showalter said. "It certainly impacted him."
In the first few days of batting practice, Davis has felt strong.
"It was kind of an eye-opener for me because I hadn't realized the impact that it really had on me," Davis said. "I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be 100 per cent and be able to swing with both hands. It was really a big relief to not have any pain and I'm looking forward to getting started again."
Baltimore hit a major-league-best 253 home runs last year, and its top-five power hitters, who accounted for 177 long balls, have returned. Two of the Orioles' new players, catcher Welington Castillo and outfielder Seth Smith, combined for 30 homers. One of the attractions of Smith is his ability to get on base. Smith's .342 on-base average in 2016 would have been the third highest on the team.
"I think Seth is going to be good for us because he knows how to work the count, he knows how to get on base. That's the thing, we know we can hit the ball out of the yard," Davis said. "But I'd rather see us do it with one or two runners on, or even three – instead of going up there hitting solo shots. I think a lot of times when you hit a two- or three-run homer, it's really deflating to the other team, as opposed to a solo shot.
"Really, there's no one person in our lineup who has more power than the other guy. I think everyone, one to nine, has the potential to hit the ball out of the ballpark."