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Davis in Friday's starting lineup

Davis in Friday's starting lineup

OAKLAND -- Not even a mouthful of a larger-than-life sandwich bite could hide Rajai Davis' excitement when talk of his spot in Friday's starting lineup reached his ears.

"I'm real happy," the outfielder said as he finished a pregame meal before batting practice.

If any A's player were to enter a straight face contest, Davis would be a sure bet for last place. The outfielder can't hide a smile, and Friday's news of being the starting center fielder just made his always big grin that much wider.

"The last couple weeks, I've really been looking forward to seeing my name in there," he said. "It just makes me happy to be given this opportunity."

It's not often a player gets all wide-eyed and giddy over a lineup, but then again, most players don't have to go through the uncertainty that Davis faces every day. Entering Friday's opener against the visiting Marlins, the 27-year-old had made just 11 starts with the A's since being claimed off waivers from San Francisco on April 23, and had started just one of Oakland's last 25 games.

"During the game, I always prepare as if I'm already in the game," said Davis, who is batting .259 with eight RBIs. "So when I get in the game, I'm always ready."

It's a process that has not gone unnoticed by manager Bob Geren, who has always been the first to credit his outfielder's ready-to-go mentality.

"His last few at-bats have been real good," Geren said. "It's nice to get him in there and give Jack [Cust] and his legs a little break."

The skipper mentioned the convenience of having Cust in the designated hitter spot and having a "speedy outfield for Mr. [Rich] Harden" with Ryan Sweeney and Carlos Gonzalez to the left and right of Davis.

"It's definitely a compliment hearing that your coaches know how hard you're working," Davis said. "I'm grateful to play for a team with such a winning attitude."

The outfielder's last appearance on the field did not come on the grass, but rather from the infield spot of second base, where he played the final inning against the Diamondbacks for an injured Mark Ellis on Wednesday.

"Oh, that was something," a perked-up Davis said when asked about the infield experience. "I had to ask Mark, 'Can I use your glove?'

"It gave me a different look at the game, and I was so ready for the ball that it's probably the reason why it never came to me."

Just one day earlier, Davis hit his first home run of the season during a 2-for-2 night after coming in for Cust in a 15-1 blowout over Arizona.

"That was nice," he said. "I feel like I've been getting in quality at-bats, so hopefully that will continue for tonight's game."

Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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