By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — What do we make out of White Sox third baseman Matt Davidson?
Initially, he was a highly touted slugger selected in the first round by Arizona in the 2009 amateur draft. After playing well in the Diamondbacks’ system, Davidson was then traded to the White Sox for closer Addison Reed in December 2013.
In the ensuing years, the minor-league trials and tribulations were trying on Davidson. In successive Triple-A seasons, he hit .199 and .203. Collectively, he struck out 355 times in 2014 and 2015. During 2016, it got better for Davidson, who was hitting the ball well and was promoted to the White Sox last summer. As fate would have it, he broke an ankle in his first game with the White Sox last June and missed the rest of the season.
Now, it appears player development has come for the 26-year-old Davison, who’s tied for the White Sox lead in home runs (10) with Jose Abreu and is fourth on the team with 25 RBIs. All of this comes despite the fact that seven of his teammates have more plate appearances.
How does this change occur for a talented-but-struggling player? In this case, hard work and a positive mental approach.
“In this game, you have to have a very short memory,” hitting coach Todd Steverson said. “At the same time, for a player like Matt, you must remember what happened and learn from it.”
Davidson could win the third base position outright this summer, especially if incumbent third baseman Todd Frazier will continue to be the subject of trade talks. The easygoing Davidson has played some at first base and designated hitter as well.
“I have learned how to look at each day as a new day,” Davidson said about his prior bad seasons. “I have learned how to focus on what I can control. In the past, I carried too much with me. It has been definitely relaxing to concentrate on controlling what you can control and letting the other stuff go. I have let those things go and, as a result, lessened all anxiety.”
Davidson has still a swing-and-misses factor to deal with, striking out in 35 percent of his plate appearances this season. The fact that the White Sox have begun a rebuild has allowed Davidson and some others to receive more playing time and mature without fear on instant demotion.
“It definitely helps you know you have time to grow here,” Davidson said. “We want to win and do things correctly, but if you’re on a team that has to win now, the manager will play the guys who are the hottest at that moment.”
Manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff have mapped out a nice plan for Davidson so far.
“We want to get Frazier off of his feet sometimes,” he said. “We also want Matt to play some first base. We have been sliding him into the DH role quite a bit. The good thing is, he has been able to handle it. He has done a nice job of doing his defensive work and staying sharp. He seems to be able to keep his mind clear and stay ready.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.