White Sox’ Matt Davidson off to hot start in Cactus League
GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox slugger Matt Davidson is picking up where he left off after hitting 26 home runs as a rookie last season.
The 26-year-old designated hitter/corner infielder has hit three homers in nine Cactus League games as he prepares for his second full season in the majors.
Davidson also is hitting .355 with two doubles and a triple and leads all Cactus League hitters with 15 RBI.
Clearing fences never has been a problem for the 6-3, 220-pound Davidson. Only All-Stars Aaron Judge (52) and Cody Bellinger (39) hit more homers among rookies last season than Davidson, who had the fourth-most rookie homers in Sox history behind Jose Abreu (36 in 2014), Ron Kittle (35 in 1983) and Zeke Bonura (27 in 1934).
Abreu was the only Sox player to hit more homers (33) than Davidson last season.
‘‘Seeing results gives you confidence,’’ Davidson said. ‘‘Ultimately, I want to improve on that. I was glad I was able to show a little bit of what I can do. I still feel like there’s more to do.’’
Longtime Sox great Paul Konerko said there’s more, too. When the retired Konerko, who hit 439 career homers, passed through camp the other day, he talked with Davidson about hitting and came away predicting a big season for him.
‘‘I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s an All-Star this year because he has that kind of body, that kind of juice,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘If he rolled out 40 homers, it wouldn’t surprise me at all. He has to build on last year, but he has a lot of power, and [Guaranteed Rate] is a good field to hit in.’’
Davidson’s third spring homer Wednesday against the Reds carried toward right-center. He can go deep anywhere in the park.
‘‘He’s a lot stronger than I was,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘I could hit homers, but I didn’t have that kind of power. With him, it’s figuring out how to make more contact here and there because that will drive in more runs. Get deeper in counts. He’ll always be a guy who strikes out, but if he is doing the damage he’s going to do, it’s not going to matter.’’
Davidson knows he needs to make more contact and improve on the .220 batting average and .260 on-base percentage he posted in 118 games last season. He walked only 19 times, so it’s a matter of making better decisions at the plate.
‘‘Swinging at balls and not swinging at strikes is really the only bad thing I did last year,’’ said Davidson, who has walked three times and struck out seven times this spring.
Davidson said he got wind of what Konerko said.
‘‘Nobody ever wants to think you’re just an average baseball player, so you have to have that realization in your mind that you’re able to do that,’’ Davidson said. ‘‘If I was satisfied with last year, that wouldn’t be a long-lasting thing. You always want to get better.
‘‘It’s very humbling to hear that from Paul, who has done some amazing things in this game. I was excited to hear that.’’
The Sox like Davidson’s power, but they would like to see him to cut down on his 165 strikeouts from last season. His defense at third and first lags behind his bat, so the jury is still out about whether he can be a long-term solution somewhere besides designated hitter.
The Sox certainly believe in his power. What’s not to like about that?
‘‘I’m very fortunate that the White Sox have believed in me because I had some bad years and they left me on the roster,’’ Davidson said. ‘‘I’m grateful that people believe in me. There are a lot of players that don’t get that chance. Hopefully, I can show them what they believe in.’’
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