MESA, Ariz. — Everybody knows the impact Khris Davis makes in the middle of the A’s lineup, but this spring the left fielder is working to improve another aspect of his game.
Davis and A’s outfield coach Mike Aldrete are working regularly on improving the strength and accuracy of Davis’ throwing arm. Opposing base runners have gotten bold in taking the extra base on Davis, and while he acknowledges he’s never going to develop a cannon, he and Aldrete both believe there’s room for improvement that can make a difference throughout the season.
“We’re not looking for him to throw like Roberto Clemente,” Aldrete said. “What we’re really working on is trying to stop guys from taking extra bases.”
Davis takes the task seriously, and he’s frank in his comments about wanting to become a better outfield thrower.
“Nobody’s harder on themselves than me, and when I hear I throw like a girl, that (stuff) doesn’t feel good,” he said. “But at the same time, where I lack somewhere, I gain somewhere else. Just because I have a weak arm doesn’t mean I’m a bad left fielder. I can still cut balls off and get it in.
“It’s just a matter of minimizing bad throws.”
He’s got a good mentor in Aldrete, who played 10 years in the majors and admits that he had a weak arm in left field when he initially moved from first base with the Giants. But he made gradual improvement over time, and though Aldrete never struck fear in opponents with his arm, he says that part of his game became adequate.
“To me it’s a lot like speed,” Aldrete said. “No one’s ever going to make me a 100-meter Olympic champion. But whatever I’ve got today, if I can work on it and be faster than I am today, that’s a good thing.”
Helping Davis become a more well-rounded defender would benefit the A’s. He’s their best power hitter, one of just seven players in franchise history to notch a 40-homer season, so he needs to be a daily fixture in the middle of the order. One option would be to use Davis more at designated hitter. But the A’s want to cycle other players through the DH spot too, including Ryon Healy, who doesn’t have a regular defensive position right now but whose bat needs to be in the lineup somewhere.
If Davis improves his throwing, it might make opponents alter their scouting reports a bit, where a ball hit toward the left field line doesn’t automatically have a hitter thinking “double” out of the box.
Davis and Aldrete are putting in extra work two or three mornings a week, with Davis logging time in the batting cage on other days. As he points out, there’s a balance to strike between working on throwing and making sure he keeps his swing grooved.
“Honestly, I have to work on (throwing) a lot more than my hitting,” Davis said. “But at the same time, it’s a fine line because I don’t want to take away from my hitting, because there’s times I’ve got to work on my swing too.”