Davis steps up in second shot at starting job

Davis steps up in second shot at starting job

MIAMI -- Rajai Davis is making the most of his second chance at a starting job with the Blue Jays this month.

Davis officially took over the starting duties in left field when Eric Thames was optioned to the Minor Leagues on May 29 following a disappointing start to the year.

The 31-year-old Davis has since seized the opportunity and appears to have put a subpar 2011 season behind him.

"He's done a really good job of getting a fastball early in the count and not missing it," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "I think that's the result of a much more consistent swing.

"We'll still see him fall over occasionally at the plate, but his swing path has been more consistent. So when he gets a pitch on the plate, he has been able to handle that fastball early in the count."

Davis is hitting .318 with a .375 OBP and five extra-base hits since Thames' departure. He also has provided an element of speed at the bottom of Toronto's lineup, with nine stolen bases in 11 attempts during those 20 games.

The numbers have come in a relatively small sample size, but they're still a drastic improvement over last year's total results. In 2011, Davis struggled as the starting center fielder before eventually losing his job en route to hitting .238 with a .273 on-base percentage.

The biggest difference has been his ability to handle right-handed pitching. Last season, Davis hit righties at just a .221 clip, but he has posted a .300 average vs. righties this year.

"Davis quietly goes along putting up a solid year and has been a force in a number of ways for us," Farrell said.

"I think we're seeing the hitter that he was for two years in Oakland prior to coming here. I can't say that this year is a fluke by any means."

Farrell has gone out of his way in recent days to praise Davis' turnaround at the plate. Davis was expected to eventually be challenged by Triple-A outfielder Travis Snider for the starting job, but as long as Davis continues to produce, the Blue Jays likely will stick with the status quo.

Davis is a career .273 hitter with 194 stolen bases in parts of seven seasons at the big league level.