MESA, Ariz. -- A few years ago, A’s first baseman Ike Davis might have taken it for granted that he would get out of bed every morning and feel ready to play a baseball game.
Then in 2012 he was diagnosed with Valley Fever, a fungal infection of the lungs. Suddenly, some of the basic requirements for a big leaguer -- adequate sleep and sufficient energy -- were in short supply. Such an illness would affect anyone in any profession, but it can be a career-altering ailment for a professional athlete.
“The biggest thing would be energy level,” Davis said. “Focus, dizziness, you have trouble sleeping. You get sick easier, your immune system is down. During a long season it’s obviously not the best thing to have.”
Symptoms of the disease were still affecting him all the way into the 2014 season. But Davis doesn’t come across like someone looking to make excuses.
Right now he’s happy to be starting a new chapter with the A’s. Oakland acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates in November for international bonus money, and the left-handed Davis is slated to play first base against right-handers. His role is vital for a team that is in need of power and run production with hitters such as Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris traded away over the offseason.
The A’s had great success utilizing Moss as the left-handed portion of a first base platoon in recent seasons. They would love to duplicate that success with Davis, who had 32 home runs and 90 RBI for the Mets in 2012 but over the past two seasons has hit .220 while averaging just 10 homers and 42 RBI.
“That’s the intent and that’s why he’s here,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We feel very good about him. You look at his numbers against right-handed pitching last year. They were good. With our metrics, he was a guy that stood out.”
Last season, all of Davis’ 11 home runs and 51 RBI came against right-handers. For his career, he holds an .813 OPS against righties compared to .577 against lefties.
Would he like the opportunity to play every day? Of course. But he also knows the A’s emphasize platooning at some positions.
“If I play well enough, obviously good things will happen and you get to play more,” he said. “But as far as what they have as a plan, they’re the ones that wanted me and traded for me. So obviously they know what they want me to do.”
Davis, who turns 28 this month, went to high school in Scottsdale. He starred at Arizona State as a first baseman and also handled some pitching duties for the Sun Devils. This is the first time in his career he’s gotten to participate in spring training in Arizona, a little bonus that goes with joining the A’s.
His father, Ron Davis, enjoyed an 11-year big league career as a relief pitcher, most notably with the New York Yankees. He used to let Ike skip school on his birthday and go to a Giants or Cubs spring training game with buddies.
As Davis got older, he found himself playing on some of the same travel teams as A’s second baseman Eric Sogard. They wound up playing on the right side of the infield together at Arizona State, and Sogard is happy they’re back in the same uniform.
“He’s going to be a great addition to this club and this clubhouse,” Sogard said. “It’s always fun to have guys that you came up with in college and get to see them again at this level.”
The fun for Davis would start with a season of good health. With right fielder Josh Reddick currently out with an oblique injury, Davis may see time in the outfield in addition to first base.
“Really, it’s a great opportunity,” he said of joining the A’s. “Every year’s a great opportunity. I’m super excited, and it seems like we’ve got a good group of guys.”