WASHINGTON — J.D. Davis is nearly certain he will be included in the lineup each time the Mets face a left-handed starting pitcher. On days when the team faces a right-hander, he has been pleased with the communication from the manager’s office.
The latest example occurred Wednesday, when bench coach Glenn Sherlock informed Davis around 3 p.m. that he wouldn’t be in the starting lineup against Nationals righty Aaron Sanchez that night. The information allowed Davis to get in a workout and plan his pregame routine accordingly.
“You can come in here and be productive, where last year there was a certain stretch in the season where we got the lineup like an hour before game time,” Davis said. “And then everybody is kind of running around with their head cut off … I think everybody is just assuming they are going to be in the lineup until game time and, ‘OK, now I can chill out?’ It just helps productivity when you know in advance.”
Davis (who is scheduled to start the series finale Thursday) is learning to thrive in a part-time role after playing on an almost regular basis in his first three seasons with the Mets, when healthy. He entered Wednesday with a .238/.377/.357 slash line with one homer and four RBIs in 53 plate appearances, but those numbers tell an incomplete story. Davis also had a hard-hit ball rate of 70 percent, according to Fangraphs, which was among MLB’s highest. Based on that rate, Davis’ expected batting average was .351 and expected slugging percentage .677.
Those numbers tell manager Buck Showalter that Davis hasn’t been the luckiest player on the planet.
Davis’ path to more playing time was cleared last week when Robinson Cano was designated for assignment and then released. Davis and Dominic Smith are left to share the DH spot (or in some cases Smith plays first base, shifting Pete Alonso to DH).
“It’s kind of like a Dodger-like feel, where Max Muncy can move everywhere, [Cody] Bellinger can play first and right and kind of move everybody around to keep everybody fresh,” Davis said.
Davis’ most notable contribution this season has been the pinch-hit double he delivered in Philadelphia last Thursday that continued a ninth-inning rally. Brandon Nimmo followed with a two-run single and Starling Marte’s RBI double put the Mets ahead with their seventh run in the inning. The Mets won.
“It was a big confidence booster for me,” Davis said. “Just coming through there against [Corey] Knebel. I know the situation and everything, 7-1, he probably didn’t know he was going to pitch.
“He probably didn’t have his best stuff, but to just come in there and turn on a fastball, something I have been working on and something I have been trying to stay short and to actually do it in a game, it was a big moment for me and a big moment for the team to kind of pass the baton and get a win out of that game.”
Davis spent much of last season on the injured list with a torn ligament in his hand. When he returned after 2 ¹/₂ months on the injured list there was still discomfort, impeding his playing time. As spring training commenced this season Davis thought there was a strong probability he would be traded given his potential limited role. To this point he’s glad he got to stay.
“How can I not?” Davis said. “I am on a first-place team. We’re loaded on this team and it’s a good problem to have.”