It’s been 1,006 days since Matt Davidson last played in a major league baseball game.
In between, the former top-100 prospect endured a two-year flirtation with the Mendoza Line while being passed over time after time for a return to the big leagues, even as a September call-up. But after hitting .268/.349/.444 with 10 home runs in 75 games with Triple-A Charlotte this year, the 25-year-old Davidson was called up to the major leagues on Thursday and is hitting eighth as the White Sox designated hitter.
“It’s been a long ride, but I’m glad to be here,” Davidson said.
The White Sox acquired Davidson for closer Addison Reed from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Dec. 16, 2013, with the hope he could be a staple at third base and the middle of the team’s lineup for years. But after not making the White Sox out of spring training two years ago, he struggled in back-to-back seasons in Triple-A.
Davidson hit 43 home runs in that span, but had strikeout rates north of 30 percent both years and saw his OPS plummet to .644 in 2014 and .668 in 2015. During that offensive malaise, Davidson didn’t have any illusions of returning to the major leagues for the first time since the Diamondbacks brought him in in August and September of 2013.
“The past couple years I haven’t really had a good reason to be impatient,” Davidson said. “I’ve struggled, so I kind of knew I wasn’t getting called up. You’ve got to take it day by day, one step at a time and focus on what you need to do to get here.”
The White Sox liked what they saw from Davidson during spring training in March, but needed to see him translate that positivity into regular-season success. Davidson’s .792 OPS was the best he’s had since 2013, and his strikeout rate dropped to about 26 percent.
With the White Sox having an off day next Thursday and the All-Star break approaching quickly, there wasn’t a need for an extra arm in the bullpen, so Matt Purke was optioned to Triple-A and Davidson was brought up.
“I think when you hit rock bottom and you try to work your way back up and build yourself back up, something happens there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Not only doing that in spring training, but doing what he’s doing in Triple-A is the stuff that you build off of.”
With left-hander Tommy Milone — who’s given the White Sox offense plenty of headaches in the past — starting for the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, Davidson will get an immediate opportunity to make an impact, albeit from the back of the lineup.
Ventura said he’s not worried about Davidson trying to do too much in an effort to make an immediate positive impression in his first major league game since Sept. 28, 2013. Davidson and the White Sox feel like his 2014 and 2015 issues are behind him, and the focus is on getting him to contribute for a team that expects to be in contention for a playoff spot throughout the summer.
“I think he’s in a better spot than he’s ever been and understands himself better,” Ventura said. “I think he’s gotten over trying to impress and trying to do too much and the pressures that come with that. Even in spring training he was in a great spot. So I think that whole experience has helped him for right now. Seeing him today, he still seems to be pretty level headed about who he is and what he can do.”
Free agency officially begins Friday at 11 a.m. CT, but all signs point to Brian Campbell rejoining the Blackhawks for the 2016-17 season.
It's been widely rumored that the 37-year-old defenseman has been open to a return to Chicago, where he helped bring a Stanley Cup to in 2010 and still resides in the offseason.
The latest report comes from Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest, saying Campbell is likely to sign a one-year deal with the Blackhawks.
This comes less than a day after Campbell told the Chicago Tribune that he's willing to take a hometown discount if it meant playing for the Blackhawks, a team that ranks No. 1 on his list.
If reports turn out to be true, Campbell immediately gives the Blackhawks a top-four defenseman and alleviates some of the pressure off the bottom pairing, such as Trevor van Riemsdyk, who was asked to take on a larger role last season.
The Blackhawks have agreed to bring back forward Brandon Mashinter and defenseman Michal Rozsival on one-year deals, the team announced Thursday.
It's a $575,000 cap hit for Mashinter and $600,000 for Rozsival, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.
Mashinter, 27, scored four goals and one assist in 41 regular-season games during his first year with the Blackhawks last season. Rozsival, 37, registered one goal and 12 assists in 51 games last year.
The moves give the Blackhawks cheap depth up front and on the back end along with flexibility heading into free agency, which officially opens at 11 a.m. CT on Friday.
With the signings, the Blackhawks now had 19 players (10 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders) under contract for the 2016-17 season. They have $5.215 million in cap space to fill out the rest of the roster, per generalfanager.com.