OAKLAND — The thinking coming out of spring training is not to put too much stock in inflated exhibition numbers.
The thing about Khris Davis’ spring is there weren’t any numbers to inflate.
The A’s slugger had a zero in the homer column in 15 Cactus League games. Then it took him all of three at-bats in Monday’s season opener to rediscover his home run trot.
Seeing Kendall Graveman pitch like a No. 1 starter was heartening. Watching the relievers pass the baton and get the job done in the late innings was crucial. But was there anything more comforting for A’s fans than seeing Davis go deep twice in a 4-2 victory over the Angels?
On a night that screamed out for an electrifying performance before a sold-out home crowd, Davis delivered in a big way.
“Man, he’s fun to watch,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “It’s pretty special. I don’t think there is a ceiling for a guy with his kind of power. He’s a smart hitter too, he knows his swing really well. He knows his approach. I’m glad he’s wearing one of our uniforms.
“It doesn’t matter what guys do in Arizona, when the lights come on on Opening Night, that’s when you really see what guys are gonna do.”
Considering Davis clubbed 42 homers last season with 102 RBI, it wasn’t exactly a surprising performance. But then you think back to last April, when Davis looked woefully off his timing and didn’t connect for his first homer until Game No. 16. He was off and running after that.
Imagine what might be within reach if he picks up right where he left off in 2016.
“He knows the league now,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He's obviously comfortable with this team. You don't expect him to hit two home runs on Opening Night, but it's certainly a better start. … I’m not going to put numbers on him, where I think he should be. But I think if you were to ask him, he thinks he has a chance to have a better year than he had last year.”
Davis became just the second Athletic to hit two homers in the opener in Oakland history. Jason Giambi did it in 2000. And it’s hard to believe this factoid, but Davis also became the first A’s player with three hits on Opening Day since 2002, when David Justice and Jeremy Giambi both did it.
Melvin said with a light chuckle that in all the rounds of batting practice he threw Davis this spring, he didn’t recall Davis clearing the fence once. But if big spring numbers have to be shrugged off to a degree, so does a lack of spring numbers.
“It’s pretty great, just to know it’s there and there’s a little bit of hope even if I’m not swinging it well in BP,” said Davis, speaking with a tone that suggested he actually wasn’t worried at all. “But I’d rather swing it good in the game than in BP.”
The A’s finished the night in appropriate style, after a pregame ceremony honoring Rickey Henderson in which the Coliseum field was renamed after the Hall of Famer. Henderson’s speech got the crowd more fired up, and with so much pro-Oakland love surrounding the team as it scopes out a place to build its new ballpark, posting a crowd-pleasing victory was good form.
“What an unbelievable experience getting to watch Rickey Henderson get honored,” Vogt said. “We’re so fortunate we get to be around that guy every once in a while. Not only was he one of the best players of all time, but he’s so great with us, and hw teaches us a lot more than people think. He’s not just a face, he’s a great man.”
Davis and his teammates returned the favor Monday night by giving Henderson a thoroughly entertaining performance to witness.