Kyle Davies is trying to make Bobby Cox's decision on the fifth starter's role a hard one. He knows he's in a battle, but he's not giving up without a fight.
Davies pitched five innings in an intrasquad game Friday morning at Disney against some of the Braves' top minor leaugers. He allowed only one run on two hits, with no walks, and seven strikeouts. The only run off Davies came on a home run to left field by Braves' outfield prospect Jon Mark Owings.
The outing was the best of the spring so far for Davies, who had walked five and struck out only three in his eight previous innings. Davies had only allowed two runs in those three games, but the five walks were a bit troubling.
After the game Davies told me that he had not felt that good on the mound in three years. His changeup and slider were very effective, and he believed his fastball was in the 92-95 mph range. Davies has changed his mechanics a bit on his windup. Instead of coming over his head, his hands are now at his belt, which allows his follow through to be more complete. Davies said that's the way he pitched in high school until the Braves suggested he go over his head with his glove in his windup as a minor leaguer.
Davies' performance comes a day after Lance Cormier made another impressive start Thursday against the Yankees. Cormier pitched five scoreless innings and allowed three hits, no walks, and struck out three. Cormier now has a 1.29 ERA in his first four games, with only two runs allowed in 14 innings pitched.
Mark Redman, signed last week after the injury to Mike Hampton, will probably get one of the five rotation spots. So the last job will go to either Cormier or Davies.
The Braves may select to send Davies to Richmond for him to simply get more innings. The right-hander missed more than half of last season with groin surgery. So the team may prefer him to get some work in Triple-A before he's ready to re-join the Atlanta rotation.
But if Friday morning's performance was any indication of the way Davies is going to pitch, the Braves might have a hard time not having him on the major leaguer roster to start the season. His groin is healthy, so if he can be effective Davies is going to push for a job in Atlanta.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.