SARASOTA, Fla. -- It took a few weeks for the swelling to go away and when Chris Davis finally picked up a bat this offseason -- his left thumb injury behind him -- it was an eye opener.
"Because I hadn't realized the impact that it really had on me," said Davis, who suffered the initial injury at the start of the 2016 season and played through it. "I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be 100 percent and be able to swing with both hands. It was really a big relief to not have any pain, and I'm looking forward to getting started again."
Davis, who still hit 38 homers last season, has done some extra stuff this winter to improve his hand strength and enters Spring Training fully healthy.
"That's something I always take a lot of pride in, and that's something that's really helped me to be a productive hitter in the past is having good form and hand strength," the 30-year-old said. "The way I injured it was kind of a freak thing. It was a last-minute dive into the bag basically, and I don't think there's any way you can prevent that. It's just gotta go in feet-first and do whatever you can to protect your fingers."
Davis, who was third on the team with 84 RBIs and led the American League in strikeouts, still feels like there's plenty of room to improve for 2017 and is cognizant that several of his teammates are approaching free agency.
"You'd be foolish not to realize that or disregard that. We understand that not everybody is going to be here their whole career, and very few guys play their entire career in one place," said Davis, who signed a mega-deal with Baltimore last winter. "And we talked about it the last few years. The older I get and the closer these guys get to free agency or whatever it is, the more you realize that you have a sense of urgency about winning and going to the postseason with this group of guys. It's a special group of guys, and there's nobody, no other group that I'd rather do it [with]."
The Orioles, who were able to retain Mark Trumbo and keep most of the clubhouse intact, won't need to spend much time getting to know the new guys this spring. Instead, they'll continue to sport a power-laden lineup and hope that one of the few new additions -- 34-year-old outfielder Seth Smith -- helps steady a feast-or-famine offense.
"I think Seth is going to be good for us because he knows how to work the count, he knows how to get on base," Davis said. "That's the thing, we know we can hit the ball out of the yard. But I'd rather see us do it with one or two runners on, or even three -- instead of going up there hitting solo shots. I think a lot of times when you hit a two- or three-run homer it's really deflating to the other team as opposed to a solo shot. Really, there's no one person in our lineup who has more power than the other guy. I think everyone 1 through 9 has the potential to hit the ball out of the ballpark."