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Davis back with Rangers in backup role

Davis back with Rangers in backup role

ARLINGTON -- Chris Davis is back for his third tour with the Rangers this season, but this time will be different.

Davis, who was called up before Saturday's game with the Yankees, is no longer a starter, but will be used as a reserve corner infielder and pinch-hitter off the bench. Manager Ron Washington made it clear that Mitch Moreland will still be the Rangers' starting first baseman, at least against right-handers.

"I like his gamesmanship and his work ethic," Washington said of Moreland. "He grinds out at-bats. He works hard, and is a sponge for knowledge. He's done a great job since he has been up here."

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Jorge Cantu will likely start against left-handers. Moreland, since being called up on July 29, entered Saturday's game hitting .263 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 31 games and 95 at-bats, with a .374 on-base percentage and a .463 slugging percentage.

Davis, entering Saturday, had also played 31 games for the Rangers and was hitting .188 with no homers and three RBIs in 101 at-bats. He had a .265 on-base percentage and a .267 slugging percentage.

Davis hit .285 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs in 80 games as a rookie in 2008, while posting a .331 on-base percentage and a .549 slugging percentage. But he has not been able to build on that.

In 144 games since then, he is hitting .228 with 21 home runs, 62 RBIs, a .280 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging percentage.

"The whole thing with me is, I can hit up here," Davis said. "I know that. Until I do, I'm not going to be an everyday player. That's fair enough. I still feel I can hit up here.

"I've put in the work and done what they've asked me to do. I'm not hanging my head, and I'm not conceding defeat. I'm going to keep working. It's going to click."

Davis hit .327 with 14 home runs and 80 RBIs in 103 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He is mainly here as a reserve corner infielder and left-handed pinch-hitter off the bench. He remains a superior defensive player at first base, and could be used as a late-inning defensive replacement for either Moreland or Cantu. Davis can also play third base, if Michael Young needs a day off.

"[Davis] deserves to be here," Washington said. "He got sent down and was told to work on some stuff. He did that. He's still in our future."

Davis was the Rangers' Opening Day first baseman, but was sent down on April 23. He was called up from the Minors on July 9, after Justin Smoak was traded to the Mariners, but was sent down again on July 29.

"It has been an up-and-down year," Davis said. "It has been an emotional roller-coaster, not knowing where I would be. It's hard to sit here and say it's a learning experience, but it is. I was blessed to get to the big leagues at a young age and have some success. Now, I'm going through some struggles.

"Nelson Cruz is a great example. I really admire him. Sometimes it takes more than one time to get the body right, the mind right and the swing right."

Cruz made his Major League debut with the Brewers in 2005, but spent much of the next three seasons bouncing between Triple-A and the big leagues. He finally broke through as an All-Star in 2009.

"I don't think they have lost faith in me," Davis said. "I was put in a tough spot, and didn't produce. Mitch came up and swung the bat well. That's part of it. That's part of the game, and everybody knows it."

First base has been a struggle for the Rangers all season. Their combined .213 batting average and a .339 slugging percentage are the second lowest of any team at that position. Their 58 RBIs is also the second fewest.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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