Injuries behind him, Davis eyes spot with Reds

Right-hander reaches 93-95 mph in 2-inning outing in Cactus League opener

Injuries behind him, Davis eyes spot with Reds

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The main stats that Reds pitching prospect Rookie Davis posted for Double-A Pensacola in 2016 would indicate he had some good numbers. But a closer look revealed some issues that frustrated the right-hander.

Davis suffered a hip flexor injury in Spring Training and spent most of May on the disabled list with a right groin strain. It led to lowered velocity and a decreased strikeout rate, as the groin soreness lingered the rest of the year.

"Whatever the issue was, I would try and fight through it and make sure I could throw every five days," Davis said on Friday after facing the Giants in the Cactus League opener. "Just from last year until today, it felt like the ball was coming out better. My main concern last year was can I get through this game healthy. Today it was just attack guys, be aggressive, compete."

In the Reds' 6-4 loss to San Francisco, Davis pitched two innings and allowed one earned run with four hits, no walks and two strikeouts. Radar readings from scouts indicated his fastball was between 93-95 mph, which is where it needs to be.

"The thought of the injuries never entered my mind today, whereas last year it was, 'Is he going to go on this pitch, can I field that bunt, can I get over to first base?' It did play a role," Davis said. "I'm not sure how much, but just having confidence in it now is huge for me, to put it behind me and get ready for this upcoming year."

Top Prospects: Davis, CIN

Last season with Pensacola in 19 starts, Davis was 10-3 with a 2.94 ERA. There was a five-game run with Triple-A Louisville, where he was not successful and had a 7.50 ERA, which promoted a return to Double-A to finish the season. His strikeout-to-walks ratio dropped from 5.83 at Class A Advanced to 2.08.

Davis, 23, was part of the Dec. 28, 2015, trade that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees for four players. MLBPipeline.com ranks Davis as the organization's No. 9 prospect.

With Davis lacking the push-off power in his legs for his fastball, Reds manager Bryan Price felt he did a nice job trying to develop his secondary pitches.

"He had the breaking ball, he worked on a hybrid slider-cutter, and then the changeup," Price said. "The changeup, for me, was really one of the areas that he really needed to focus on since last year to continue to move along as a starting pitcher. He made the most out of a tough situation. I thought his velocity started to show, come back up when he was in Triple-A toward the end of the year."

Davis hopes he can fight his way on to the 25-man roster, especially with open spots in the rotation and bullpen. Price indicated he might have to overtake more developed young pitchers like Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Tim Adleman and Lisalverto Bonilla, but he didn't rule him out altogether.

"It's a lifelong dream to pitch in the big leagues. It's so close and with how my body is responding, I'm able to recover quicker than I did last year," Davis said. "I think that plays a huge part in it. I'm going out every day with the plan of breaking camp with this club and being a starter. Until I'm told otherwise, that's going to be my goal."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.