Davis takes big step in return from TJ surgery

Reliever tosses perfect inning for Potomac; he made MLB debut with Nats in '13

Davis takes big step in return from TJ surgery

WOODBRIDGE, Va. -- Before Friday, the last time Nationals reliever Erik Davis pitched in a real game was Sept. 22, 2013, when he tossed a scoreless inning against the Marlins to complete a promising season that included a 10-game debut in Washington.

The next spring, Davis' hopes of making the big league club crumbled as he suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in April. A little more than a year later, the right-hander took a significant step in the recovery process, beginning a rehab assignment with a hitless inning for Class A Advanced Potomac on Friday night against Frederick.

"It was exciting," Davis said. "It's a long road, and I'm still not where i want to be, but it's a great first step. It feels nice to get out there and pitch in front of people, and my arm responded pretty well. I'm just happy that after all this time, I'm finally making my way back."

In 2013, Davis posted a 3.10 ERA and struck out 54 batters in 52 1/3 innings at Triple-A Syracuse. Over two stints with the Nats, he allowed three runs on 10 hits over 8 2/3 innings, with one walk and 12 strikeouts.

Then he had to start all over again after surgery. The truly difficult part, Davis said, wasn't the physical challenge, but the monotony of spending the season at the Nats' complex in Viera, Fla., doing his rehab while teammates played elsewhere.

"I worked so hard to get to [the Majors], and then I get hurt," he said. "It was really unfortunate, but at the same time, it really drove me to work hard so I can hopefully get back to that level at some point this season. So, I'm still a long ways off, but tonight was definitely a good step in that direction."

Davis' inning could not have gone much smoother, as he induced a grounder to first base, then whiffed back-to-back hitters, one on a changeup and one on a fastball. He threw eight of his 13 pitches for strikes and sat at 91-92 mph with his heater.

Davis doesn't feel all the way back to 100 percent, as he continues to work to regain some velocity and life on his offerings. Overall, he was happy with his performance but said the real test will be how he feels over the next couple of days.

The plan is for the 28-year-old to pitch again for Potomac on Monday, then advance to Double-A Harrisburg for a few games before moving on to Syracuse. If all goes well there, Davis could put himself in position to reclaim a spot in the Washington bullpen.

"My goal is just to get healthy enough to where I'll be an option for them," he said.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.