Matt Davidson was totally serious when he talked about taking on a bigger pitching role. The White Sox, on the other hand, might not be as ready to throw one of their big bats on the mound on a regular basis.
Davidson made three relief appearances last season, helping to save the bullpen on a trio of occasions. In addition to giving up zero runs in those three innings, he got one heck of a highlight out of the experience, striking out Giancarlo Stanton in a game against the New York Yankees.
Davidson was incredibly enthusiastic about the whole thing, talking about how he grew up wanting to be a big league pitcher and how he’d love to be used in more high-leverage situations.
But general manager Rick Hahn said last week at the GM Meetings in Southern California that Davidson likely won’t be an important piece of the White Sox bullpen in 2019.
“He’s excited by the potential to add additional value to his club,” Hahn said. “I think he knows, still, his bread is buttered with the offense he provides. We’ve had conversations with Matty, we’ve had conversations with the agent about what potentially he could do in the future. And who knows, maybe someday that comes to fruition. But right now, the focus is on his offense.”
Asked if Davidson would log some innings during spring training, Hahn said:
“I don’t anticipate that right now.”
Position players pitching became somewhat of a popular practice across the game during the 2018 campaign, with managers hoping to save their regular bullpen arms in games with lopsided scores. And that’s what Rick Renteria did when he inserted Davidson into three separate games. But most of the other position players who got to pitch didn’t talk dreamily about wanting to go into full-time double duty.
With Shohei Ohtani grabbing headlines as a two-way player with the Los Angeles Angels, though, there was a concrete example of someone doing exactly that in the major leagues. And so began the speculation that Davidson maybe could do some more regular work as a reliever, the go-to guy for saving the ‘pen, so to speak, or even an option in higher-leverage situations.
But it seems like the White Sox don’t want to go down that road right now.
Davidson has enough to worry about on the offensive side of things. While he made huge strides in getting on base last season, increasing his walk total from 19 to 52 and his on-base percentage from .260 to .319, he batted just .228, struck out 165 times and saw a dip in his power numbers, hitting six fewer home runs than he did the year before and watching his slugging percentage fall to a career-low .419.
It's not to say that Davidson's pitching days are done. The strategy of pitching position players in an effort to save taxed bullpens doesn't seem to be going anywhere, so Davidson could still see action in the same type of capacity he did in 2018. But it's likely the White Sox will lean on guys who make their money as relievers when it comes to those high-leverage situations.