The Oakland Athletics tried to hire Chili Davis as hitting coach a few years ago, targeting him because of his track record as a hitter and because his approach mirrored what the organization valued, in prioritizing patience and power. But a deal didn't work out.
Then Bob Melvin took over as manager, and as he and general manager Billy Beane discussed possible hitting coaches before the 2012 season, he had a name in mind: Chili Davis.
The second time around, Oakland hired Davis away from the Red Sox, and over the past 10 1/2 months, Davis has helped hitters who make up the majors' best offense. Watching the Athletics hit can be like watching a slow-pitch softball team, with a bunch of guys taking big swings and looking to do major damage. Oakland took care of business against the talent-challenged Houston Astros this week, limiting the Houston starting pitchers to just 5 1/3 innings in three games, and after the Athletics finished off a sweep of Houston with a 7-5 win Wednesday, Oakland led the majors in runs scored and total bases.
Think about this: Since June 1 of last season, the Athletics have out-homered their opponents 171-114. Jed Lowrie and John Jaso have been excellent additions to an offense that was already really good, and Chili Davis has been an important part of the coaching staff.
"He was a very accomplished player himself, and he's one of those guys who didn't forget the mindset and how hard [the game] is," Lowrie said over the phone Wednesday, after he pushed his average to .373. "He's not walking around telling everybody how hard the game is, but he understands that you can do everything right and hit a line drive and you still might not have anything to show for it.
"He understands if you can continue to make good swings, things are going to work out, and that's an important mentality to have."
Around the league
The snow on the field at Coors Field was deep Tuesday and head groundskeeper Mark Razum scrambled with his crew to remove the stuff, and mentioned to Kevin Kahn, the Rockies' director of ballpark operations, that what was needed more than anything was bodies. Not long after that, there were about 150 club employees on the field, including owner Dick Monfort, some of them using shovels and machines borrowed from the Broncos to clear the snow.
It was a great day for the organization, said Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president for baseball operations, with so many people helping to clear the field before Colorado swept a doubleheader from the Mets. Everybody had pitched in, and now the Rockies are 10-4, the second-best record in the National League.
It's early, and the sample size is small, but it's better than the alternative, which is what the Rockies experienced last year, with an avalanche of injuries to Troy Tulowitzki and others. "I think we were kind of forgotten about," Geivett said.
He believes that Colorado's early play in 2013 has been facilitated in a good way by the mess of 2012, because young players who may have otherwise had limited or no opportunities in the big leagues got a chance to play. With Tulowitzki out, Josh Rutledge accumulated 73 games and almost 300 plate appearances last year. Jordan Pacheco got almost 500 plate appearances, Chris Nelson played in 111 games, catcher Wilin Rosario had a summer of learning how to do his job in the big leagues and Dexter Fowler grew as a hitter. Adam Ottavino pitched in 53 games.
"We were not deep enough or experienced enough to handle what was thrown at us," Geivett said. "But there were a lot of players who got some experience."
Now Tulowitzki is back, and Michael Cuddyer and others who were hurt last year. "We look at last year as a bad year," Geivett said. "But in terms of growth, it was a good year."
Here's more on what the Colorado employees did.
"There are a handful of guys who impact their clubs more than others," Black said before the game. "Chase is our guy. That type of player rubs off on teammates. He makes right decisions. Chase has accepted that torch."
"It's a good day any time you get your best player back," said Padres catcher Nick Hundley.
Matt Calkins thinks San Diego should offer a deal to Headley, and that he should accept.
From Elias: Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer locked up in a pitchers' duel for the ages on Wednesday night. Hernandez allowed only one unearned run and had 12 strikeouts and Max Scherzer matched him with a one-run/12-strikeout performance of his own. It marked only the fifth time since 1900 that opposing starting pitchers each had 12 or more strikeouts while allowing one run or fewer in the same game. The previous such matchups featured Cincinnati's Jim Maloney against Pittsburgh's Bob Veale (Sept. 30, 1964), the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax against Philadelphia's Jim Bunning (July 27, 1966), Oakland's Vida Blue against California's Rudy May (July 9, 1971) and Seattle's Randy Johnson against California's Mark Langston (Sept. 16, 1992).
"It's only been a few starts," said manager Terry Francona on Wednesday afternoon. "If we lost our patience with everybody after a few starts, we wouldn't have a team. I get the mail. [They say] send him down.
"Our job is to make guys better. Not get rid of them every time they struggle. We wouldn't have a team, coaches or manager [if we did it that way]. We need to help him get better."
The Indians can't send Jimenez to the minors because he's out of options. They could designate him for assignment or try to trade him. Other than that, he's not going anywhere.
Francona doesn't want to hear about last year and how it pertains to Jimenez. Not many people do, but he led the American League in defeats (17), wild pitches (16) and finished second in walks (95).
"You can't pitch for last year," said Francona. "It doesn't work. It just makes it harder.
We've reached the point where you could understand why the Indians might want to try something different. Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Info sent this along: Since July 8 of last season, Jimenez is 1-12 with a 7.27 ERA, and a .300/.386/.510 opponents' line, with an 11.5 percent walk rate. Not surprisingly, that ERA is the highest in the majors among pitchers with 50 innings pitched in that timeframe.
It's a really good sign, I think, that Zimmerman came into the dugout after his error Tuesday asking teammates for observations on what they see in his motion. When Chuck Knoblauch went through his throwing yips -- which basically ended his career -- he was in so much denial and was so intense that the other Yankees didn't know how to approach him, or help him, until the problem had embedded itself into his psyche. Other players have worked through this enough to be functional (Jarrod Saltalamacchia is an example), but typically, coaches and players say that the issue never really goes away; it's either managed or becomes unmanageable.
The Nationals say the throwing thing is not a concern for them, writes Amanda Comak. From her story:
The recent string of errors has stirred up the debate over the third baseman's throwing mechanics, which have been reworked multiple times the past few years to compensate for different issues. After the October surgery, though, Zimmerman's plan was to return to a natural motion. The trainers don't think he'll be all the way there until June and the Nationals, seemingly to a man, are unconcerned by the recent errors.
"I don't think it's a mental problem right now," manager Davey Johnson said. "With the severity of that injury and the surgery in the offseason, and now throwing from a different angle, his arm is a lot stronger. It's just going to take him a little while to get comfortable and in a slot over there.
"It's always magnified if somebody makes a bad pitch after you make an error and they hit a home run. We're not picking each other up. Good teams do that. It puts more focus on a guy making an error, especially when he's coming back from some surgery. I don't have any concern."
They owe him $114 million, total, for this season and the next six.
• Travis Hafner was The Man for the Yankees. He's hitting .342, Kevin Youkilis is hitting .327, Brennan Boesch is batting .316 and Vernon Wells is batting .295; the Yankees are surviving with The New Guys, as they should be called.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Terry Collins wants Zack Wheeler, writes Andy Martino, but the GM is balking.
3. The Brewers re-signed K-Rod.
Dings and dents
1. A Nationals prospect had Tommy John surgery.
2. Two Phillies will see the doctor today.
5. Jose Bautista is still dealing with a bad back. Bob Elliott thinks it may have been the preparation to play third base that hurt Bautista.
4. The Dodgers were swept by the Padres in a punchless series, Bill Shaikin writes.
• CC Sabathia's velocity is down, but he continues to win, Jorge Arangure writes. This was career win No. 194.
• Rick Anderson is away from the Twins for a personal matter.
• Mike Butcher wants his pitchers to be more in attack mode.
• The Mets are hoping that their wacky road trip doesn't send them into a tailspin.
• The Cardinals' lineup had been scoring more before bumping into A.J. Burnett.
• The Marlins are preaching patience to folks who aren't coming to their games, writes Tyler Kepner.
And today will be better than yesterday.