Clubhouse chatter - Davis gladly takes heat of hot corner

July 29, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

You could call Leonard Davis an investment banker in sanitary socks.

Or, maybe, he's just a realist.

Either way, he knows the value of being 'at home' and what kind of equity it might bring in the future.

Davis started his season with the Hagerstown Suns as a man with a good bat but no position. He played second base (on a platoon basis), designated hitter (when needed), got a taste of the outfield, and a taste at third base. He was given anything he could get to keep that bat in the lineup.

But at the beginning of the second half, Davis became the Suns' everyday third baseman. For Hagerstown, that bat was easily penciled into the lineup every day.


For Davis, it was a dose of confidence and reality.

"I'm comfortable," Davis said July 20 after a strong game against Lexington. "I know I'm going to play every day. And it gives me the experience at third base for the future."

Third base isn't Davis' natural position - he played outfield in high school - but he's learning with this in mind.

"I may not end up playing it (with the Washington Nationals) because of (Ryan) Zimmerman," Davis admits. "But I can play it somewhere else."

To Nationals minor leaguers, Zimmerman is that 800-pound gorilla that sits in the corner at parties. Third base is dead man's curve in the Nationals' system. Zimmerman is the 22-year-old who finished second in the 2006 Rookie of the Year voting and is the face of the Nationals as they rebuild with an eye on their move to a new stadium.

There isn't much upside to being a good third baseman in Washington's farm system.

But that doesn't bother Davis, who's working to make third his home, even if his home ends up being somewhere else.

"I feel great. Wherever they put me, I'll play," Davis said. "I love third base, but there is no hope of playing there in the future."

You could tell how much Davis loved third by the way he was hitting. Heading into the Lexington series, Davis was one of the hotter hitting Suns and has assumed the position of cleanup hitter. He leads the team with 15 home runs.

But like the rest of Hagerstown lineup, he's in a slump. He was hitting just .176 in his last 10 games heading into Saturday, including 4-for-22 (.181) in the first seven games of an eight-game road trip through Hickory and West Virginia.

Learning to play third while playing third is like baptism by fire. Third base is a true reaction position, which means players are living on their ability to anticipate. It's something they have to learn to do.

That's tough enough, but the Suns play the majority of their games at Municipal Stadium, which has an infield that resembles a minefield. It is adventureland because routine grounders end up taking wild kicks and bounces because of the uneven nature of the terrain. It has added to Davis' inflated number of errors.

"I feel good at third but you aren't getting the greatest of hops," he said. "It's an old field."

Davis' crowning achievement in his move to third may have come July 20 against Lexington. Davis hit a solo home run in the seventh to start a three-run rally that gave the Suns a 4-1 lead. He capped it in the eighth with a three-run shot to seal the 7-1 victory.

Both hits showed what Davis is known for his bat.

But he paid dividends in the top of the eighth by laying out for a diving stop of a Jordan Parraz grounder for the second out with runners on second and third. He prevented the runs from scoring on the play and helped douse the threat and preserve the win.

"I felt better about the diving stop than I did about the two home runs," Davis said. "It helped my confidence and it helped picked us up."

And it gave Davis a payoff for his investment of playing third base.

Suns spots

·Marcos Cabral remained the only constant in the Suns batting order. He was hitting .333 on the road trip through the first seven games. The trip had been a struggle for the Suns, who lost the first six games of the swing. Still, Cabral hits .253 on the road, but .340 at Municipal Stadium.

·Zach Baldwin has been Mr. Everything since joining the Suns pitching staff. He has been a long reliever, picked up two saves in closing situations and is now showing his wares as a starter.

Baldwin, who started before his hometown fans in Charleston, W.Va., on Saturday, entered the game with five starts under his belt. He had no record, but carried a 2.03 ERA through 31 innings, while striking out 22 and walking just three.

·Robby Jacobsen has hit a rough spot in the road. He has struck out 13 times in his last 10 games. He has 40 strikeouts and 27 hits in 131 at-bats.

·Joe Napoli has come alive in July. He is hitting .312 for the month after hitting .259 in April, .274 in May and .207 in June. He is hitting .298 since the All-Star break.

·Reliever Chris Lugo has had a tough stretch in the last two weeks. He is 0-3 with one save in his last four outings heading into Saturday. He has allowed seven earned runs (eight overall) in 6 1/3 innings, a 9.95 ERA.

· Yunior Novoa has allowed 140 base runners - 110 hits and 30 walks - in just 93 innings this year.

Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at

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