Hamilton's friendship provides support for Davis

Hamilton's friendship provides support for Davis

Hamilton's friendship provides support for Davis
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There was a morning this winter when Josh Hamilton went out to the Ballpark to take some batting practice in the indoor cages.

Chris Davis was there, too, working with new hitting coach Thad Bosley. Hamilton and Davis have been teammates for three years, and Bosley, after watching the two together, sensed a connection. He saw a struggling young first baseman and an American League Most Valuable Player Award winner sharing a common bond.

Hamilton's trials and tribulations with drugs and alcohol have been well-chronicled. Davis has had no such problems, but his situation with the Rangers is well-known. Mitch Moreland has taken over as Texas' first baseman, and Davis' future as a Ranger and a Major League player is murky at best.

When the Rangers arrived at Spring Training, Bosley decided to keep Hamilton and Davis together. They hit in the same group of four every day during batting practice, and Hamilton's strong support and friendship seems to be one reason why Davis is relaxed and enjoying his spring.

Davis may not know where he will be on Opening Day, but Hamilton is helping him cope with a difficult situation.

"We've always had kind of a different relationship," Davis said. "There are a lot of things I can see in him and not just baseball ... the type of man he is. He's helped me grow in faith and understand a lot of the things that I have gone through and continue to go through. God puts a person in situations for a purpose, and he's really helped me spiritually.

"There was a time where I was worried about things that didn't matter and in a certain sense I lost sight of where I came from. Josh is somebody that I can relate to. He's not the only one -- we have a unique clubhouse, and all of us have been through a lot together -- but he is somebody I can really talk to because of who he is and what he has been through. We've grown a lot together."

Hamilton doesn't see it as being a mentor and made it clear that he is not trying to "take anybody under his wing" as the cliche goes. He is just naturally trying to help out a friend.

"What you are seeing is our faith in God," Hamilton said. "He's pursuing his faith and I'm growing my faith. If you do that, you're going to connect a lot more. I have been growing mine the last four, five, six years, and he's at the point where he is growing his spirit. When you do that, people are going to be drawn to you or push away from you. But it's good to have somebody to connect with."

The connection is working for Davis. The Cactus League only started on Sunday, but he is still making an impression here in Spring Training while working at both first and third base.

"He is doing great," manager Ron Washington said. "He is doing well. I hope he can keep it going. He looks like he is getting his stroke back. We'll find out, but it looks like he is making adjustments. That's important."

That doesn't mean Davis is going to come into Spring Training and steal Moreland's job. Moreland still has to earn a job, but the Rangers appear committed to him. Right now, Davis doesn't have a job at the Major League level. Texas' bench will most likely consist of outfielder David Murphy, infielder Andres Blanco and catchers Mike Napoli and Matt Treanor. Napoli will be one of the Rangers' right-handed-hitting first basemen.

Unless the Rangers make a trade, Davis will be back at Triple-A Round Rock. He insisted he is not sitting around and worrying about it. He is trying to do something about it: having fun, relaxing and enjoying himself rather than worrying about where he will be on Opening Day.

"I know that question is on a lot of people's minds," Davis said. "I'm not going to run from the fact that there are a lot of things up in the air. This is still the first Spring Training where I've been able to relax and enjoy myself. You can worry yourself sick. You can worry above moves, who is in front of you and who is behind you. The biggest thing is still to go out and enjoy the game."

Davis, a native of Longview, Texas, was a big hit when he was called up by the Rangers on June 26, 2008, and took over as their first baseman. In 80 games, he hit .285 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs over 295 at-bats. He had a .331 on-base percentage and a .549 slugging percentage.

He has spent the past two seasons trying to find that level again. He was the Rangers' Opening Day first baseman in each of the past two seasons and could not hold down the job either time.

Over the past two seasons, Davis has played in 158 games with 511 at-bats and hit .227 with 22 home runs and 63 RBIs. He has a .283 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging percentage.

"Chris is a great player," Hamilton said. "He really is. He's got all the talent in the world. In the big leagues, he is one of the top three infielders defensively, period. Hitting is just something where you need experience and it clicks and it takes off after that. He is definitely somebody who can play at the big league level and stay for a long time."

In 2009, Davis was given until July 5 until he was sent to the Minors because of his offense. In 2010, the Rangers weren't so patient. He was sent down on April 27 and replaced by Justin Smoak.

When the Rangers traded Smoak to the Mariners on July 9, Davis was recalled. But he only stayed 20 days before Moreland was made the first baseman. A September callup allowed Davis to be present when the Rangers finally clinched the division title, but he was not added to the postseason roster.

"Last season when I got called back up in a different role, it was tough. I started to realize different things. It was a different perspective I had to deal with," Davis said. "A lot of the time in the past, I have put so much pressure on myself, I didn't give myself a chance to succeed.

"I was talking to my dad a few weeks ago and I've always had a big problem accepting failure. I don't like losing and I don't like failure. You have to learn to take the bad with the good. I can't always look at what I haven't done. I've done a lot of good things in this game that I should be proud of. Sometimes I need to focus on my accomplishments, what I have done and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel."

There isn't a player who was farther down than Hamilton during his 3 1/2-year banishment from the game for violating baseball's drug policy. He is now on top of the baseball world, and his experience in climbing from near-oblivion to Most Valuable Player is something that Davis -- or any player -- can learn from.

That is part of how Hamilton helps his batting-practice partner, even as Davis faces a pivotal moment in his career.

"He already knows," Hamilton said. "He's just being patient. He is doing what he needs to do to prepare to play. Everybody knows he can play the game. He'll get his opportunity, either here or wherever. He's taking control of his situation, not worrying about other people, controlling his attitude and work habits and trusting in God."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.