Shane Davis came up with new approach on his own
* LHP Shane Davis (Belmont, Ont.) thought he’d try a new approach … and he’d had success at rookie-class Bluefield ….
By Alexis Brudnicki
It’s frustrating when anything gets lost in translation.
It can also be incredibly confusing, especially when what you’re trying to translate is baseball.
Everything seems to be going just right. Bullpen sessions are going well, velocity is good, pitches are hitting their spots, and the ball seems as if it’s going to miss those bats every single time.
But when game time rolls around, something isn’t quite the same.
Shane Davis has already had to endure and overcome frustrations such as these this season with the Bluefield Blue Jays, his second season in pro ball. He’s also had to alter his delivery and arm slot after becoming uncomfortable with his own mechanics.
“[I was] trying to stay taller towards the plate because my front shoulder had a tendency to go towards first base during my delivery,” the left-hander said. “I was trying to correct that issue for the past four months and was battling with it for that period of time.
“I was able to figure it out in the bullpens for the most part, but at game speed, trying to focus on the catcher, I would come out of my delivery, causing command issues. I was able to throw my slider for strikes with my eyes closed, but had trouble with fastball command.”
Davis seems to have found a suitable solution. The Toronto Blue Jays farmhand has dropped his arm slot and is now throwing from down under. The idea for the change came to him while he was lying in bed one night, thinking about how to relay his success from the bullpen into games.
“If I was out of high school I would have stuck with it,” the 24-year-old said. “But being a pitcher out of college, you generally have a two-year window to show what you can do. That window was closing so I needed to figure something out quick. So one night I thought, ‘I am not winning this battle with the new mechanics.’”
The southpaw had played around with sidearming during his time at Canisius College, although only during batting practice and pitcher’s fielding practice. He found that it gave him a more natural feeling when he was trying to get the ball away quickly.
When Davis came to his current team with the idea his regular pitching coach, Antonio Caceres, was away from Bluefield on a brief vacation. Rick Langford, the head rehab pitching coach in Dunedin, was filling in for him.
“During side the next day, I decided to try throwing from that slot,” the native of Belmont, Ont., said. “I threw about 10-12 pitches and talked to [Langford] after about it and he seemed to like it. The ball came out more naturally and was a smoother arm motion. I could throw a fastball, slider and changeup the first day from that slot.
“When [Caceres] came back and I showed him, he gave me the go-ahead. My first outing was three games ago and it went very well. In 1 2/3 innings, [I threw] approximately 15 pitches and 14 were strikes. My command is much better from that position.”
In his last three outings, Davis has thrown a total of four innings. He’s allowed one hit, shutting out his opponents. He’s walked three and struck out four batters over that span.
“If I can keep my outings consistent from that slot it will give me the chance to move up in the organization as a late-inning reliever or even a lefty specialist,” he said. “I find it much easier to focus on the catcher and my target with each pitch rather than think about my mechanics.”
The change in delivery inadvertently means a life of being relegated to the bullpen, though that doesn’t bother Davis. Since turning pro, he hasn’t experienced anything else, and he is happy to have a role that he can settle into.
“If I turn into a lefty specialist, I am completely fine with that,” he said. “Having a role in any job is an important part of mindset in my opinion. When you have a goal, it is that much easier to focus on it rather than wondering what you are supposed to be doing and what your job description is.”
The hope for Davis is that throwing sidearm will help him move up the organizational ladder. After spending last season with the class-A Vancouver Canadians, he has spent all of this year in the rookie Appalachian League. The biggest difference that Davis has seen between the leagues hasn’t been the talent, but the age.
“The Northwest League is generally a little older; college graduates that are more polish in their games,” the lefty said. “This league has a ton of high-round picks, like more so than the Northwest League but they are young and quite inexperienced at the professional level.”
Another adjustment that Davis has had to make has been living life without a kitchen, something that has put a wrench in his everyday lifestyle.
“I haven’t been able to cook my own food, which I enjoy quite a bit,” he said. “I like to eat quite healthy and make my own food but we don’t have a kitchen where I am staying so it is not possible. The one meal I miss the most is salmon with sweet thai chili sauce and broccoli, which will be the first meal I make when I get home …
“I can also make the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies which I have made once this summer. I usually make them for family, good friends and host families.”
Though he hasn’t had the opportunity to partake in one of his favourite activities on a regular basis this summer, Davis and a few of his friends on the team have found time for another one.
“The teammates I am closest to in Bluefield are [Scarborough native] Les Williams, Griffin Murphy and Kevin Comer,” he said. “We golf nine holes in the morning before games once a week or so to break up the monotony of baseball.”
Though Davis has good friends in Bluefield, and the men of the bullpen are a, “pretty close-knit community”, living the dream in West Virginia helps him to really appreciate what he has at home.
“When you play a pro sport and are away from home you begin to miss the most simple things,” he said. “Such as a comfortable couch and a blanket to watch a movie, cooking your own food, being able to hang out with friends on a Saturday night, or going for a drive and listening to music.”