Davis brings World Series experience to A's

Veteran center fielder enters Spring Training slated as club's leadoff hitter

Davis brings World Series experience to A's

MESA, Ariz. -- New A's center fielder Rajai Davis couldn't put back on the uniform soon enough, reaching for the green and gold the moment he found his locker upon joining camp Thursday morning.

"He had his cap and his jersey on, and his slacks and his dress shoes," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I said, 'Did you come in here like that?' I know he's excited about being here, and those are the type of guys we need here."

The visual was a familiar one. Davis was with the A's from 2008-10, and he's since played for three other teams -- most recently joining the Indians last season on a memorable run to the World Series, where he hit a thrilling game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Cleveland's Game 7 loss to the Cubs.

"Very few words can express that feeling or any feeling that has equaled or even come close to that feeling," said Davis, who signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the A's on Jan. 3.

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The effervescent Davis is rarely at a loss for words. Friendly and chatty around the clock, Davis "is one of those guys that just kind of puts you in a good mood," said Melvin, who hopes his players have their ears open when Davis, now equipped with World Series experience, is in the room.

"You know he's a talker, so he will pass that around," Melvin said. "That's good for our guys to hear. It's one thing hearing it from me, but it's another hearing it from a guy who actually experienced it last year.

"Confidence-wise, when you have that kind of success, that kind of competition, that scenario, that does a lot. And with our guys, he'll be looked at differently this year."

Davis' value, of course, extends to both sides of the ball. "He's playing center field as well as he has in his career," Melvin noted, and he also gives the A's a true weapon on the basepaths. Davis stole an American League-high 43 bases for the Indians last year, giving him five seasons with 40 or more.

Outlook: Davis, OF, OAK

He'll bat leadoff for the A's, who were in dire need of production at the top of the lineup last season: Oakland's leadoff men compiled a Major League-low .242 batting average and .289 on-base percentage.

"He's one of those guys that makes everybody better when he's on base, because the pitcher's focus is on him, and I'm glad he's on our side, because he had me nervous," Melvin said. "There's always a balance between a pitcher doing what he has to do to get a hitter out and having awareness of him on base, but he takes that to another level."

Davis learned from the best, often working out with Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson during his first stint with the A's.

"Rickey told me to go," Davis said, "so I went."

Melvin, upon hearing this, laughed, and said, "I'll tell him to go, too."

Davis will be flanked in the outfield by left fielder Khris Davis -- "That's like my brother from another mother," he joked -- and a right-field platoon featuring Matt Joyce, who, like Davis also arrived at Hohokam Stadium on Thursday after flying from Connecticut the night before.

"New hopes, high hopes, for something big," Davis said. "When you get a little taste of a World Series, you want that taste again. You want to enjoy that moment again."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.