PHOENIX -- Doug Davis pitched to form on Sunday, pitching his way through traffic, getting in and out of jams, and minimizing the damage as he fought his way through a Cactus League battle with the Brewers.
Though he got through only four innings, he went twice through the Brewers' order and was just a few pitches shy of his 90-pitch limit.
"After the first inning, it was pretty close," Davis joked of the number of pitches he threw the seven batters that he faced, allowing a run, but escaping a bases-loaded threat by inducing a grounder to second from Craig Counsell. "That first inning was pretty much three or four innings in itself. I battled through it. I didn't really get hurt too bad. I was able to come back the next three innings and do a decent job. I got a lot of help from the defense."
Seven of his 12 outs were ground balls, with three others made in the infield, and one via the strikeout. The defense rallied for a pair of double plays, and Davis benefited from a diving catch by Justin Upton in right field and a good play on both ends from third baseman Greg Reynolds and first baseman Trot Nixon to reach a hard grounder and a high throw respectively.
"Without those plays, I'm out there for a really long day," Davis said. "These guys have been good all last year. They play behind me at 100 percent. They're diving, and you can't ask for anything more."
Davis's struggles were mostly a result of fastball command, falling behind in counts early and playing catchup through most of his time on the hill. When he missed, he tended to miss up, a result of opening his front shoulder too early, with the added effect of showing the ball too early.
"Sometimes it takes him a while to get some of that command," said manager Bob Melvin, "and to an extent, he can be effectively wild to where he'll miss by a couple feet, then kind of paint you on the next pitch and you never really know what to expect with him. He is a battler. Even when it looks like he's got bad command and there's runners out on base all the time, he seems to limit the damage and do his thing."
The abundance of off-counts on Sunday gave Davis the chance to experiment with throwing secondary pitches in fastball counts. He admitted to doing "a terrible job of getting strike one" on Sunday, and he made the most of the opportunity to adjust on the fly.
"To be able to throw a pitch behind and not get hit too hard is key for me, because I get behind a lot. I threw a lot of cutters and I threw a couple changeups. Got some swings at them, and got some takes at them too. I didn't really have the fastball command that I want," Davis said. "Luckily, I had two other pitches that I was able to throw for strikes with my changeup and my cutter. My curveball was pretty good today. It was pretty sharp. I felt pretty good with it. I got my work in and I believe I'm ready for the season."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.