J.D. Davis returns from hand injury but without a defined role for Mets
PITTSBURGH — J.D. Davis is back with the Mets. But he no longer is their starting third baseman.
Despite being on the active roster Friday for the first time since May 3, Davis began the game against the Pirates on the bench, ceding to Jonathan Villar. He was among those who filled in while Davis dealt with a torn ligament in his left hand for two and a half months.
Davis was diplomatic about the reduced role, going as far as to suggest he wasn’t even the starter when he was healthy early this season (an objectively false claim). He said manager Luis Rojas has not told him what sort of playing time to expect.
"Everybody in here deserves an everyday start. We got loads of talent on this team," Davis said. "When I get an opportunity to bang, I’ll bang . . . The guys that have come in when I was down did a phenomenal job. They found ways to win. They’ve hit some home runs, made some great defensive plays. They contributed with the team when they came in and didn’t miss a beat. They deserve a lot of credit. For me, just stay back and be a good teammate. That’s all I can do."
Rojas mentioned the possibility of getting Davis playing time at a variety of positions. The Mets are considering having Davis get time in the outfield — where he played regularly in 2019 with a degree of effectiveness that encouraged the club to move away from that project. Davis also played first base once during his two-week rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Syracuse.
Davis, for his part, said he doesn’t mind playing other positions "as long as we have a fair communication."
"I’m flexible and I can do my best to try to play any position and work professional at-bats and try to find ways to win," he said. "I’m open to anything, as long as there’s just communication and I get my reps."
Has Rojas mentioned the outfield possibility?
"No, he hasn’t said anything," Davis said.
Among the third basemen on the Mets’ roster: Villar, Davis, Luis Guillorme and Jose Peraza. Rojas did not name any of them as the outright everyday choice. He noted that Villar, a shortstop by trade, is "always going to be a better defensive player" than Davis.
Amid all that, the Mets have been linked to a pair of high-profile third basemen in trade rumors: Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Josh Donaldson of the Twins.
Davis went to his oft-repeated line that he has been in trade rumors for a half decade, so he tries to not let it bother him. But he acknowledged that if the Mets moved him, he would be "pretty sad."
"I’ve made a lot of friends over here," he said. "I love New York. It is what it is, but I know baseball is a business. If unfortunately I get traded, that means another team wants me and that’s a positive thing."
To make room for Davis on the 40-man and 26-man rosters, the Mets designated outfielder Billy McKinney for assignment. He had a .220/.304/.473 slash line in 39 games with the club, with most of that production coming in his first two weeks with a club — beginning when the injury-ravaged Mets plucked McKinney off the DFA scrap heap.
"This is a really tough conversation with a guy that came in and helped us so much in a situation where we're dealing with a lot of adversity," Rojas said. "He did everything we asked and more."