One thing Matt Davidson wanted to make sure was perfectly clear on Tuesday were his intentions as a two-way player.
The Texas Rangers won’t have to juggle the next Shohei Ohtani.
“I don’t want it to seem like I can just go to the big leagues and be a good pitcher,” Davidson said.
Davidson, though, comes to spring training with plenty of intrigue after morphing into a two-way player last season with the Chicago White Sox. He made three one-inning appearances, his first on June 29 at Globe Life Park, and allowed a hit and a walk and no runs to put himself in a position to possibly pitch more the rest of his career.
He has also hit 46 home runs the past two seasons as a corner infielder and designated hitter, and has too much he still wants to accomplish to abandon hitting altogether. But he is intent on hitting and pitching this season.
“I’m excited for it,” Davidson said. “I’m reporting to camp as a position player and that’s what I want to do … but I think the role of maybe blowout games or when the bullpen is really taxed, that kind of idea. I’m not here to be a full-time reliever. It’s more of a utility pitching role.”
Davidson, who signed a minor-league deal with a spring invite last week, hasn’t been off a mound this off-season and only recently started a pitcher’s throwing program. The Rangers will give him a few weeks to work his way into throwing bullpens.
He’s a right-hander who throws a fastball, a knuckle-curveball and a split-fingered fastball. And he’s not a washed out offensive player with a good arm, but rather a very good high school pitcher who was also an excellent hitter.
“The interesting part with Matt is a lot of guys hit and have a good arm, so they get converted to the mound,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “He was the other way around. He was a pitcher first in high school, played both ways, and ultimately focused on hitting, but he does have some training at the amateur level.”
Davidson, who turns 28 next month, doesn’t envision himself becoming the kind of two-way player as Ohtani, who pitched and hit his way to the American League Rookie of the Year Award. for the Los Angeles Angels.
Ohtani won’t pitch in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery after last season.
Davidson sees value in a player who can provide infield defense and pop at the plate while also pitching the final inning or two of a blowout or saving the bullpen after a period with an especially high workload.
He retired Ryan Rua and Carlos Tocci before striking out Rougned Odor to cap a perfect inning in his MLB pitching debut in what was an 11-3 loss. Davidson’s average fastball velocity in his three innings was 89.9 mph.
“I could get out there and throw decent and throw strikes and make an off-speed pitch,” Davidson said. “And that’s after nine years of not throwing. I want to be almost a pitcher’s best friend. Nobody wants to go in when it’s a 7-0 blowout. I want to be that guy that helps them out and makes them better in situations when they need to be good.”
That said, his three appearances were a thrill and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. He wants to keep pitching and he wants to be good when he does get the chance.
“I just had the time of my life out there,” Davidson said. “I’m not just coming here to hang out, but I think there’s that value of a two-way player and there’s a value of just helping the pitchers out. It’s almost like, ‘Hey, we’re gassed. Throw Matt in there.’”