Davis anxious to start as Pawtucket hitting coach

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Davis anxious to start as Pawtucket hitting coach

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON A little more than 24 hours into his new job as hitting coach for Triple-A Pawtucket, Chili Davis was given his first challenge by manager Arnie Beyeler.

I called him and told him I used to have a Chili Dog t-shirt and asked him if he could remember why, Beyeler said. He goes, Oh, we must have crossed paths somewhere but I cant remember where.'

I told him, I was your hitting coach once upon a time.

It was in 1998, while both were in the Yankees organization. Davis was on a rehab assignment with Double-A Norwich, where Beyeler was the hitting coach.

I reminded him of his great quote, Beyeler said. He goes, I hate this league. I dont have any hits here.

While Davis hit just .243 in 11 games for Norwich that season, there were plenty of hits in the American and National Leagues over 19 seasons and 2,435 games. The outfielderdesignated hitter played for the Giants, Angels, Twins, Royals and Yankees and hit .274 with 350 home runs and 1,372 RBI. Among switch-hitters, Davis trails only Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, and Chipper Jones two Hall of Famers and a likely future Hall of Famer in career home runs.

Davis knows the challenge issued by Beyeler will be just the first of many he will face as he makes his full-time coaching debut this season. Hes up for it, he said, joining first-year manager Beyeler and pitching coach Rich Sauveur in Pawtucket.

The most important challenge will be getting to know the players and gaining their trust.

I dont know if I know any players in the organization, Davis said by phone from his home in Arizona. On the big-league team, yes, I do. But Im not going to be with them. But getting to know the players . . . is probably the first step, because to gain the trust of the players youre going to be working with, youre going to have to get to know them and theyre going to have to get to know you. So, thats going to be the biggest challenge. And just keeping them working day in and day out during the course of the year.

"I talked to Arnie. My job there is to help him do his job, and to help him develop these players for their major-league careers.

Davis, who moved to the United States from Jamaica as a 10-year-old in 1970, was drafted by the Giants in 1977 out of Los Angeles Dorsey High School. He made his big-league debut in 1981 (the first Jamaican-born player to do so) and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting the next season.

A three-time All-Star, Davis won World Series championships with the Twins in 1991, and the Yankees in 98 and 99, his last season.

While playing baseball was never his boyhood dream, hes most proud of the length of his career.

Not only proud of that, but surprised, he said. I saw baseball played for the first time in L.A. when I came to the States and just fell in love with the game. Decided a couple of years later that I was going to try to play on a team. Five years later Im drafted, and three years after that Im in the big leagues. It wasnt like I woke up at age 4 and said I want to be a professional player and my dad or my uncle took me to ballgames all the time. It didnt happen that way.

"I was very blessed, being able to do something for a living that I loved, and not only that but playing that long and winning the three world championships.

When I really look back at my career, I think one of the lessons that I would like to bring to young players is that it wasnt like a career where everything went smoothly, every year was a good year. I had some down years. And as I got older in my late 20s, early 30s, I was written off a lot by people wondering if my career was coming to an end. In 1990 I left the Angels and went to Minnesota. I heard rumors: Maybe his careers over. Maybe hes done. And I went to Minnesota and won a championship. And after 92 I heard rumors again: Maybe the guy's done. Hes 33 years old, 91 was his best year. He made a comeback. He tried. And I stuck around till 99.

"So one of the things that Im proud of in my career is just my perseverance as a player and as a person. I persevered. Theres some regrets. Theres some things I wish I would have done differently. But the biggest thing Im proud of is the perseverance as a player.

He remembers what it was like playing against the Red Sox, coming into Fenway Park for the first time, (he hit .313 with six home runs and 34 RBI in his career at Fenway), the rivalry with the Yankees. His second-inning solo homer on Sept. 10, 1999, was the only hit Pedro Martinez gave up in the Sox 3-1 win in Yankee Stadium, which was one of the best pitching performances of Martinez' career: A complete-game with 17 strikeouts and no walks, facing one batter over the minimum -- Davis.

Facing guys like Bruce Hurst, Roger Clemens, Bret Saberhagen, Tim Wakefield. It was great for me being with the Yankees, he said. Playing in those meaningful games was a great way for me to end my career.

When his playing days ended, Davis, who turns 51 on Monday, decided to stay home to spend time with his three sons. He began working for the Australian baseball academy in 2003, spending eight weeks for the next three years working with both hitters and coaches. It allowed him to stay in the game without having to be away from home as much as the grind of a regular season schedule would require. This fall he worked for the Dodgers in their instructional league, an experience that let him know it was something that I felt that I was designed to do. And his boys are older now, 14, 16, and 25, busy with their own activities. It was time for Davis.

I think Im ready for this situation now," he said. Last year I decided that it was time for me to try to get back into the game.

He interviewed for a major league job with the Dodgers. When he didnt get that, he thought he might take a minor league job with the organization. He figured hed have to start in the low minors if was going to get back into coaching.

But, some news caught him off guard.

Actually, the Red Sox was a total surprise to me and it was a good surprise, Davis said. I got a call from the Dodgers' minor-league director and he asked me if I was interested in working on the East Coast. He told me who it was and I thought, Wow, thats great. If this pans out, the Dodgers are a class organization and so are the Red Sox.' "

When Red Sox minor-league director Mike Hazen called to tell him hed gotten the Pawtucket job, Davis emotions ranged from super excited to anxious to cautious. But, it gave him a sense of purpose, he said.

I think the gratitude Im going to get out of this and thats what I got out of instructional ball with the Dodgers is to feel like I was helping young hitters understand themselves, understand the game, understand what they need to do to be successful at hitting, he said. And in a way my selfishness comes from the gratification that Ill get from watching these guys become better players.

Its an organization thats built to win. The team is built to win. Theyve always been a strong organization, and their minor league system has always been great with some really good players. For me, its just such an unbelievable opportunity. I dont know if I can describe it. Just ready to get going.

Davis likely wont get to Pawtucket until Opening Day, April 7. It will be his first appearance in the Ocean State.

Ive never been to Rhode Island, he said with a laugh. Im going to see some states that Ive never been to in all my travels, North Carolina, Rhode Island. I do have family in Buffalo, New York . . . I dont know where all the teams are. Im sure Im going to see some cities that Ive never been to before and thats exciting, also.

After being away from the day-to-day workings of baseball for more than a decade, some of the things hes most looking forward to are baseball basics.

Theres a lot of things that Im looking forward to, he said. But the spring, the season, getting back out there. Hearing the balls go crack. Listening to guys talk about whatever they talk about out there.

"Basically, I think for the first couple of weeks, or week, I think its just observing and trying to find where I need to fit in in this program. This is a program thats been going on for a long time without me involved. Im new to it. Im going to have to learn it. But also being able to inject the things that I know into this program. So, Im looking forward to the whole thing. Im feeling anxiety.

"Im so anxious now. Its like when I first found out that I was going to major league camp as a player and I couldnt wait for spring training to start. Im going to major league camp, and this is that feeling all over again. Im ready to go.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Moreland homers again, Red Sox tag A's to avoid four-game sweep

Moreland homers again, Red Sox tag A's to avoid four-game sweep

OAKLAND, Calif. - A five-run ninth inning for the Red Sox that lasted more than a half-hour derailed any chance Eduardo Rodriguez had of getting his first career complete game.

Not that the left-hander was complaining.

After a bitter loss to Oakland a year ago when he allowed just one hit over eight innings, Rodriguez was more than happy with the way things turned out.

Rodriguez earned his second straight win, Mitch Moreland homered in his third consecutive game and Boston beat the Oakland Athletics 12-3 on Sunday to avoid a four-game sweep.

"I wanted to go back out there but they hit the ball pretty good in that inning and I know I had to get out of the game," Rodriguez said about the long wait. "I'll take it because we score more runs, I have a chance to win. If every inning's like that, I'll get out of the game after five."

Rodriguez (3-1) allowed three runs over eight innings. He struck out eight, walked one and retired 14 of his final 15 batters.

"Where he was with the pitch count, it'd be nice for him to go out there for the ninth inning given where he was and how well he was throwing the baseball," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "But at that point you're up nine, probably about a 35-minute inning, didn't want to take any chances."

Hanley Ramirez and Christian Vazquez had three hits apiece to power a Red Sox lineup that tallied 15 hits. Every player in Boston's starting lineup had at least one hit, and eight of the nine drove in runs.

Chad Pinder homered and drove in two runs for Oakland.

Boston, which hasn't been swept in a four-game series since July 2015, trailed 3-2 before scoring 10 runs over the final five innings.

"It felt we had them on the run a little bit," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "They get the lead and then we come back and take the lead again and you feel pretty good. But they were pretty persistent today."

Pinder went deep in the fourth, his fourth home run in eight games and fifth overall.

The A's committed three errors, giving them a major league-leading 42.

BRADLEY'S DEFENSIVE GEMS

Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts gave the A's trouble with his running and defense. Betts scored twice from first base and also made a pair of strong defensive plays. He made a sliding catch on Mark Canha's sinking liner in the eighth and then slammed into the wall after catching Khris' Davis fly to end the inning.

"This place during the daytime plays very difficult," Farrell said. "What Mookie was able to do a couple times in right field, those aren't easy plays. To be able to stay with it, go up against the wall a couple of times, we played very good outfield defense here today."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Brock Holt continues to deal with lingering symptoms from vertigo and isn't yet ready to come off the disabled list, according to Farrell. Likewise, Boston plans to keep third baseman Pablo Sandoval in the minors to get consistent at-bats while recovering from a right knee sprain. ... Farrell said LHP Drew Pomeranz, who took the loss Saturday, will start against Texas on Thursday.

Athletics: Yonder Alonso (sore left knee) sat out his fourth straight game but could be back in the lineup Tuesday when Oakland begins a two-game series against Miami. ... Sean Doolittle (strained left shoulder) threw on flat ground before making 15 pitches off the mound. The plan is for the former closer to throw 25 pitches on Wednesday. ... Melvin said the team has applied for an extension on Chris Bassitt's rehab assignment. Bassitt underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello (2-5) faces Texas on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park. Porcello has lost three of his last four decisions.

Athletics: Following an off day, RHP Jesse Hahn (1-3) starts against Miami on Tuesday at the Coliseum. Hahn leads the majors in fewest home runs allowed per nine innings at 0.19.