Davis makes strides with A's

Davis makes strides with A's

ANAHEIM -- Outfielder Rajai Davis was batting .056 (1-for-18) in 12 games when the Giants designated him for assignment on April 20. The A's claimed him off waivers three days later, and in his first 82 games in green and gold, he batted .256.

His 83rd game with the A's came Wednesday, and while his numbers aren't exactly superstar quality, Davis is pleased with the progress he's made since moving from one side of the San Francisco Bay to the other.

Sitting at his locker in the visitors' clubhouse before the finale of a three-game series at Angel Stadium, Davis pulled the iPod earplugs as he was approached for an interview and smiled wide when asked if he was enjoying his time with the rebuilding young A's.

"Absolutely," he answered.

Davis said he feels comfortable with the A's, and more important, he feels comfortable in the batter's box. For that, he gave credit to hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo.

"We work together all the time," Davis offered. "What I really like about Ty is that he's just been able to explain things to me in way I really understand. And if you really understand what someone's telling you to do, obviously it's going to be easier to actually do.

"He tells me what to do, I understand it, I do it in batting practice, I feel that it's working, I stick with the program, and I take it into the game."

Davis repeatedly referred to an improved mind-set when talking about the changes in his game, explaining that part of it is being able to use batting-practice more effectively. The trick, he said, is convincing himself that the batting practice pitcher is trying to get him out just as much as the pitchers he faces in games.

That one is throwing 70-mph meatballs and the other might be throwing 87-mph sliders on the black shouldn't matter, he suggested.

"You just try to make it all the same in your head," Davis said. "If you do that, you'll be more relaxed in both situations, and the more relaxed you are, the better."

Van Burkleo characterized Davis, a 27-year-old native of Norwich, Conn., as an "eager" student, always willing to heed the advice of his coaches. A's manager Bob Geren said he's seen improvements in several areas of Davis' play, including his baserunning.

Through Tuesday, Davis had 21 stolen bases in 152 plate appearances. Since 1992, the only Major Leaguer who had more stolen bases in fewer than 200 plate appearances is Otis Nixon, who stole 26 bags in 176 plate appearances with the Braves in 1999.

"His jumps have consistently gotten better, and in high-pressure situations, too," Geren said. "He's stolen some bases when we were down a run ... that's a great weapon."

So is a speedster who can hit for a little power, and Davis is working to be that kind of player. He has three doubles, a triple and two homers with the A's.

"I'm utilizing my legs to drive the ball more consistently," he said. "I was a .303 career hitter in the Minor Leagues, but I did a lot of that with my hands. I had just enough talent to get by."

Now he's trying to blend his talent with improved mechanics.

"Exactly," he said. "My approach has gotten a lot better since I got here."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.