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Perrotto: What Will Pirates Do With Henry Davis?



Henry Davis, Pittsburgh Pirates, Yasmani Grandal

PITTSBURGH – Henry Davis has become a paradox.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were unsure about the catcher’s defensive ability at the end of last season. As a rookie, he spent just two innings behind the plate, one inning each at the end of blowout losses.

Davis hasn’t shown a lot of improvement if measured purely by statistics. He has minus-5 defensive runs saved.

Yet Davis is passing Ben Cherington’s eye test. The Pirates general manager spoke well of Davis on Wednesday before a 3-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park.

“Best way I can say it is full confidence in him when he’s behind the plate in terms of what he’s going to do for the pitcher, receiving, game calling,” Cherington said. “He’s worked his tail off on that. He’s clearly a different defensive player than he was last year and credits to him.”

However, Davis is dragging down the Pirates’ offense with a .180/.288/.230 slash line in 19 games. He also has yet to hit a home run in 74 plate appearances.

Davis went 1 for 3 on Wednesday night but also struck out and grounded into a double play. Pirates manager Derek Shelton had Andrew McCutchen pinch-hit for Davis when they were down to their last out.

The Pirates selected Davis first overall in the 2021 amateur draft, enticed by the idea of having a power-hitting catcher. Instead, he batted ninth in the Pirates’ order on Wednesday night.

Cherington was evasive when talking about the root of Davis’ offensive woes. However, he also gave the 24-year-old a vote of confidence in the hitting department.

“I think it’s any number of things. Wouldn’t want to get too much into the detail that we talk about,” Cherington said of Davis’ hitting woes. “He’s certainly aware of it and he’s working at it and we’ve identified some things that our group is working with him on and he’s got a lot of pride and we know he’s going to work hard at it and there’s a long track record of hitting there.

“I would bet on him being a good hitter again. He’s just working through some stuff right now that he’s going to make some adjustments on.”

There is a chance that Davis could wind up making those changes at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal is on a rehab assignment with Indianapolis after being sidelined since the beginning of the season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He could be activated any day.

Thus, the Pirates must decide whether to send Davis or fellow catcher Joey Bart down when Grandal comes off the injured list. It seems extremely doubtful that the Pirates would carry three catchers on the roster.

Bart is out of minor-league options and would have to pass through waivers if the Pirates decided to send him to the minors. Davis, conversely, has options remaining.

“We potentially have a decision. We’ll see. Anything can happen any day to change that,” Cherington said. “We know baseball works in strange ways but, yeah, potentially if (Grandal) is at a point where we think he’s ready and everyone’s healthy then we’ll have to make a decision.

“But if we’re in that position then that’ll be a good position to be in. It just means we’re deep and strong and we’ll have to make a call.”

If the call is to send Davis down, it wouldn’t be the end of the word. Many players return to the major leagues after gaining some more polish and confidence in the minor leagues.

Sending Davis to Indy would indeed be the right call.

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