First baseman Ike Davis signals to an excited crowd after hitting a double in the second inning Saturday night at PNC Park, his first at-bat as a Pirate.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ike Davis entered the Pirates' clubhouse around 3:35 p.m. Saturday. He wore a long-sleeved blue shirt, the final vestige of his seven-year career in the New York Mets organization.
About a minute into Davis' first interview with local reporters, Andrew McCutchen stuck the end of a bat into the assorted recorders and microphones surrounding Davis' face. McCutchen and Davis have known each other for a decade.
"He's going to fill in here pretty easy and be easy to get along with everyone," McCutchen said. "Everybody for sure is going to like him."
That process began Saturday.
Davis, acquired from the Mets Friday for right-hander Zack Thornton and a player to be named later, was in the lineup, batting sixth, playing first base, before he arrived at the ballpark.
The Pirates have liked Davis for some time, and the Mets were ready to move their 2008 first-round draft pick. In pulling the trigger, the Pirates added a hitter with the potential for power, one who figures to receive the majority of the playing time at first base because he bats left-handed, but also one plagued by inconsistency in recent seasons.
Davis' five years in the majors with the Mets had their highs, including the 19 homers in his 2010 rookie season and the 32 he hit in 2012. An ankle injury that kept him out for most of 2011, a bout with valley fever and an oblique injury last season qualified as lows. Media reports detailed the Mets' efforts to trade Davis for months. An anonymous source once questioned his nightlife choices.
"It was pretty negative over there for me for a little while," Davis said. "Hopefully, I can come here and hear some positive energy and start building forward and start playing better."
Davis said he thought the Mets would trade him earlier. He heard the Pirates were interested and hoped they acquired him because his brother lives in Sarasota, Fla., right down the road from the Pirates spring training facility in Bradenton.
"I was excited, obviously, to play," Davis said of his reaction to the trade. "I haven't been playing. It's weird leaving the place that you [started] ... that's the only place I've ever been."
Davis was 5 for 24 in 12 games this season with only five starts for the Mets. He had one home run, a walk-off grand slam. Since hitting 32 homers in 2012, Davis hit .205 in 407 major league plate appearances, with 10 home runs and a .337 slugging percentage.
The Mets sent Davis to Class AAA Las Vegas last summer, but he improved upon his return to the majors before a lingering oblique injury shut him down for the final month of the season.
"Sometimes, you get in the habit of not trusting yourself and that's the worst thing you can do," Davis said. "Your hands are fast enough to hit fastballs, you don't need to cheat. When you cheat, you don't see the ball as well. I'm not cheating any more, just trying to see it and hit."
Manager Clint Hurdle said Davis, 27, and the right-handed Gaby Sanchez would platoon at first base. That means Davis will get the majority of the starts.
"It's going to be based on the pitcher's hand more than anything," Hurdle said. "Obviously, we acquired Ike as a guy that we've had our sights on for a while. We get a lot of right-handed pitching. Obviously, there should be more reps initially for him to get going."
Hurdle said he talked Saturday with Sanchez, who had started to play more against right-handed hitters and is hitting well, about his adjusted role.
"We've gotten to the point where it looked like there was going to be a window of opportunity and then we put a screen over the window again for him," Hurdle said.
Davis finished speaking with reporters and headed to batting practice, in Pirates garb now, ready to meet more teammates. He and McCutchen played on the junior Olympic team in Taiwan and against each other in the 2004 Aflac All American Classic. McCutchen went 4 for 5 with a steal, but Davis, who homered in a West team win, was the MVP.
"He's a guy that can do a lot," McCutchen said. "We look forward to him coming and him contributing here and doing it early and doing it often."
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