MESA, Ariz. — Wade Davis scanned the clubhouse in the spring-training complex and called the Cubs "a crazy talented group," saying there are 10 or 12 players who are among the best in all of Major League Baseball.
That's where Davis would set the baseline, looking ahead at a roster layered with high-end talent, youth, versatility and playoff experience. Not finding a deeper meaning in how the Kansas City Royals went from losing a World Series Game 7 in 2014 to winning the 2015 World Series to finishing last season at 81-81.
"I don't think I bought into that whole 'tired' or 'hangover' thing," Davis said. "I didn't think that was the case, because you get the whole winter to get rid of that and get after it."
It still might have caught up to Davis, who made 140 appearances and pitched in 20 more playoff games during those two pennant-winning seasons combined. A flexor strain in his right forearm twice put the All-Star closer on the disabled list last year, when the Royals sunk to third place in the American League Central.
"I don't think there was like a mentality that changed," Davis said. "We just didn't have all the pieces that we needed to have."
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Kansas City's season pivoted during a collision last May, when All-Star third baseman Mike Moustakas tore the ACL in his right knee and Gold Glove outfielder Alex Gordon broke his right wrist. The year after finishing third in the AL MVP voting, dynamic center fielder Lorenzo Cain stayed healthy enough to play in only 103 games. The pitching-and-defense formula didn't carry over for a team that put up a 4.67 rotation ERA and dropped from third to 17th in defensive efficiency.
Davis doesn't care about Cactus League stats (14.40 ERA) and gets the benefit of the doubt after being such a lights-out reliever in the postseason (0.84 ERA, 46 strikeouts in 32.1 innings). Manager Joe Maddon has insisted that Davis looks good in terms of velocity, movement and mechanics, suggesting the injury concerns are overblown.
But again staying healthy will be a huge issue for a Cubs team that won the National League pennant at a time when the Los Angeles Dodgers didn't seem to truly trust anyone on their pitching staff beyond Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenley Jansen. The Cleveland Indians somehow made it to the 10th inning of a World Series Game 7 without Carlos Carrasco or a full-strength Danny Salazar.
The dynamics of that entire playoff run might have changed if the ball Javier Baez hit off Johnny Cueto hadn't landed in the Wrigley Field basket for a 1-0 win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 1.
"There are definitely a lot of things that have to go your way in some situations," Davis said. "Sometimes, you just go out and beat the crap out of people. Sometimes, you need that flyball to drop or that ball to just go foul or whatever it might be. That's kind of the lucky part of the game."