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Davies Defies Odds With Hard Work

Davies Defies Odds With Hard Work

| On 21, Jul 2014

Columbus Clippers veteran starting pitcher Kyle Davies isn’t afraid of hard work. He’s been doing it all his life, on and off the baseball field. In the offseason, the 30-year-old right-hander from Decatur, Georgia used to work construction with his father.

“I used to a long time ago,” Davies said. “My father owns a construction company and builds McDonald’s restaurants. It’s something to fall back on.”

His hard work ethic has the Indians organization, fans, and Davies optimistic as he tries to return to the big leagues following a major shoulder surgery in 2012.

Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the fourth round of the 2001 amateur draft, the right-hander made his big league debut with the Braves at Fenway Park on May 21, 2005 and baffled Red Sox hitters for five innings to record his first major league win. Davies continued to impress out of the gate, not allowing a single run in his first three big league starts. He finished his rookie season 7-6 with a 4.93 ERA in 21 games for a club that won 90 games the NL East crown.

A strong rookie season earned Davies a spot in the Braves 2006 opening day starting rotation. In the company of names like John Smoltz and Tim Hudson, Davies showed signs of dominance early, but was shelved for 10 weeks due to a torn groin muscle, and later returned to end the year 3-7 with a poor 8.38 ERA.

After being assigned to Triple-A Richmond to start the 2007 campaign, injuries to Mike Hampton and Lance Cormier opened the door for Davies to reclaim his spot in the starting rotation. But he failed to capitalize on the opportunity, posting a 4-8 record and 5.76 ERA in 17 starts.

On July 31, 2007, Davies was traded to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitcher Octavio Dotel. In five seasons with the Royals, Davies compiled a 29-44 record and a 5.34 ERA in 99 starts.

Davies struggled badly in 2011, going just 1-9 with a 6.75 ERA in 13 starts. On August 1, the Royals placed Davies on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder impingement and released him on August 10. He later signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Plagued by lingering shoulder pain, Davies opted to undergo right shoulder surgery that would not only cost him the entire 2012 season but possibly his career.

Davies began his comeback by signing a minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins on February 20, 2013.

With the major surgery came some major changes to the way Davies had always approached batters. He could no longer rely on his 91-92 MPH fastball to overpower hitters. This reality forced him to reteach himself how to pitch and become more of a control pitcher.

“Well, a lot of it is focusing on becoming a command guy and some of the stuff I probably should have been doing when I had a healthy shoulder,” said Davies.

In 12 rehab starts with the Twins farm system in 2013, Davies went 4-3 with a 3.41 ERA. This progress caught the attention of the Indians organization, who signed him to a non-guaranteed minor league deal on February 12, 2014.

“It’s coming along,” Davies said. “Strength stuff and getting the body to work correctly again. Once you have shoulder surgery you have to reteach your body how to throw the correct way and control what your body does. It’s kind of where we’re at. And building up the arm strength.”

Davies began the 2014 season with the Double-A Akron Rubberducks, where he went 2-1 with a 3.03 ERA in 5 starts. In 29.2 innings, he struck out 18 batters and walked seven. These numbers earned him an early promotion to Triple-A Columbus, just two years removed from major shoulder surgery.

“Absolutely, it’s been gratifying,” Davies said. “I spent a lot of time struggling with my command in the major leagues and now I’m getting a chance after having surgery to reconnect on how to actually pitch as opposed to just winging it up there with good stuff.”

Since joining Columbus, Davies is 5-7 with a 3.94 ERA in 13 games. He has 49 strikeouts to 18 walks and hitters are fairing just .256 against him.

“Yeah, it feels good to be back at this level and hopefully one day I can get everything rolling and get back to the major leagues,” Davies said.

They always say a hard work ethic will take you places. It’s taken Kyle Davies to the big leagues once. And there’s a good chance it can take him back again.

Photo: Isaac Hale/Toledo Blade