Chili Davis spent last season in the desert, as much figuratively as geographically.
Concerned about the pandemic and his risk, as someone with a preexisting condition, the Mets hitting coach remained home in Arizona working remotely.
He’s got a different plan for 2021.
Whenever spring training begins — for now, it remains on track for mid-February — Davis, 60, plans to be on site in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in his familiar hands-on role.
“With everything going the way it is with the vaccine, it becomes a little less risky to be out there,” Davis told The Post. “I am planning on being there, and hopefully when we get there, we can all get vaccinated. I’m definitely one of those people who is going to take the vaccine because my options are take it and reduce the risk or don’t take it and maintain the high risk that I have right now.”
Davis said a friend of his contracted COVID-19 and needed five weeks to recover, which included nearly a month with a “pneumonia-like” condition.
“The virus is serious,” Davis said. “For people who don’t want to consider it serious and want to look at it as ‘It’s just the flu,’ they need to wake up.”
The Mets were among MLB’s top teams offensively last season, even in Davis’ absence. Assistant hitting coach Tom Slater and hitting performance coordinator Ryan Ellis handled the on-site instruction, with Davis relegated to watching video at home and communicating with players on Zoom. Davis also handled much of the advance scouting on opposing pitchers.
Though not an ideal situation, Davis said his decision to remain at home was the correct one.
“It was a tough decision to make, but I felt it was the right decision, and kudos to the Mets allowing me to work from home and understanding why I opted not to come out,” Davis said. “They were very good about it, and I did everything I could from home to try to help. I wouldn’t want to do it that way again. There’s a lot to be said for being there and being hands on.”
Davis’ pupils will include Francisco Lindor, whom the Mets acquired last week in a blockbuster trade that sent Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, among others, to Cleveland.
Lindor had his worst offensive season in 2020, posting a .750 OPS in 60 games. Davis is hoping his tight relationship with Cleveland’s hitting coaches, Ty Van Burkleo and Victor Rodriguez, will help him gain insight into Lindor’s approach.
“I am sure they are going to be willing to trade some information on Lindor to help me out with him, and I am going to be willing to do the same with them for Gimenez and Rosario,” Davis said.
Last week, Davis interacted with Michael Conforto and J.D. Davis, who live nearby and have been working out. Davis expects to soon begin monitoring their hitting sessions.
Davis said he’s also spoken to Robinson Cano, who in November received his second career PED suspension and as punishment will miss the entire season. After this suspension, the 38-year-old Cano will have two years and $40.5 million remaining on his contract with the Mets.
“I spoke with Robbie and listened to him mostly,” Davis said. “I feel that he’s disappointed. He never admitted using anything to me — as a matter of fact he sort of denied it to me — but I am in his corner. It’s unfortunate for him and for the Mets for this thing to happen, but I wish him the best.
“Robbie Cano is a class person. I enjoyed the opportunity in 2019 being around Robbie Cano, who has had a really good career, and I am looking forward to him probably coming back in 2022. I don’t think his career is over. The two-time suspension, it might be a little tarnished, but he is still a quality player. In my mind, he’s still a quality person. I can only gauge people based on my interactions with them.”
Author : Mike Puma