There were times last season when Orioles first baseman Chris Davis looked as if he was carrying the weight of the entire franchise on his shoulders.
With each strikeout or grounder into the infield shift, Davis found himself in a deeper hole that proved to be insurmountable.
The 32-year-old veteran finished the year batting .168 with 16 home runs, 49 RBI and a .539 OPS. Davis had the worst WAR among major-league qualifiers at minus-3.1, according to Fangraphs.
"I mean, there was so much that went on away from baseball," he said. "Having to deal with just failure on a constant basis, unmet expectations, and this is all personal. And I think by the time the season ended I was just so tired that I was ready to turn the page.
"And I had a lot of work to do, so there wasn't a whole lot of time for me to sit back and feel sorry for myself. I wanted to explore a lot of options as far as my offense was concerned, my nutrition and training. I felt like the clock was ticking."
As a result of the struggles, Davis didn't have much of an offseason and immediately went back to work after the final pitch of 2018. He focused on conditioning and flexibility and lost some weight.
"Everybody keeps telling me that I look skinny, so I guess that's a compliment," he said.
In addition to the physical workouts, Davis spoke with some of his former coaches with the Texas Rangers and also spent some time with a sports psychologist. He hopes the that commitment culminates in a bounce-back year.
"I made a lot of changes this offseason," Davis said. "I saw a lot of different people, people that I hadn't seen in a decade but that knew me in a younger age when I was in the Rangers' minor league system, and I feel like it just kind of opened me up. I think going through last season, going through that stretch of just failure, day in and day out, really got me to the point where I was like, 'OK, now we need to exhaust all options and really take a step back and make an adjustment.' I don't feel like I'm an old man. I don't feel like I've lost a step."
Davis is enthusiastic about the new direction of franchise under new general manager Mike Elias. Davis plans to arrive at the Orioles' spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., ahead of the rest of the team and continue to work on his game.
New manager Brandon Hyde and the rest of the coaching staff are determined to get Davis back on track. The Orioles' new hitting coach, Don Long, has already met with Davis and has "some ideas" about how to make him productive again. Long declined to get into specifics, but he said the immediate focus is on building a relationship and trust.
"I know he's been working on some things this winter and so I'd rather dive in as a starting point there and see what they are and make it a collaborative effort along the way," Long said.
Davis has the pedigree to become a dangerous hitter once again. He led the American League in home runs in 2013 with 52 and then again in 2015 with 47. He considers the struggles in 2018 an aberration in his career.
"In my mind, that was a fluke," Davis said. "It's not going to happen again. For me, it's about getting back to the player that I was in 2013, in 2012, in 2015, and years that I was productive."
The Orioles are also looking to bounce back from the worst season in franchise history when they went 47-115. If Davis is productive, the team will certainly be heading in the right direction.
"I feel more ready this time this year than I did last year," he said. "That's saying a lot because I felt like I was really going to have a good year going into spring training. I'm ready to get it started, I'm ready to put last year behind us and start this season off."
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