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Ike has nothing but optimism going into 2013

Ike has nothing but optimism going into 2013

Ike has nothing but optimism going into 2013
NEW YORK -- In hindsight, the most miserable year of Ike Davis' professional career officially came to a close in mid-June, when he successfully exorcised the last demon haunting him.

By that month's second weekend, Davis had put an end to the year-long slump that decimated the early part of his season. That came roughly two weeks after the Mets announced that they would not demote him to the Minors. Which came two months after the team began treating him as though he had Valley Fever. Which came half a year after he avoided microfracture surgery on his injured left ankle. Which came several months after Davis damaged said ankle in a collision with David Wright in Denver.

Individually, each of those obstacles carried the potential to harm Davis. Combined, they reduced him from one of the Mets' most promising young players to a struggling slugger with a career in jeopardy.

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But they did not overwhelm him: Davis rebounded to rank among the league leaders in most power-hitting categories after the All-Star break, finishing with a career-high 32 homers and 90 RBIs. So unlike last December, when uncertainty hounded him, Davis has nothing but optimism heading into 2013.

"I'm actually super excited. I'm healthy, and hopefully I don't get some crazy disease," Davis said earlier this week at the Mets' holiday party, poking fun at his Valley Fever scare.

That's good news for the Mets, who are depending upon Davis more than ever. With Wright settling in as more of a moderate power hitter than a 35-homer basher, Lucas Duda struggling to gain a foothold as a legitimate starting outfielder and Scott Hairston potentially leaving via free agency, the Mets are relying on Davis for a big chunk of their power production in 2013. No one in the lineup is more of a threat to go deep.

But perhaps no one was less of a threat over the first third of the 2012 season, which saw Davis hit .158 with five homers through June 8. Those numbers included an 0-for-18 funk to start the year, a 1-for-23 skid later in April and a 2-for-33 stretch in mid-May that nearly knocked the one-time top prospect back to the Minors.

Davis had grown so frustrated by early June that he lashed out one afternoon in the visitors' batting cage at Yankee Stadium, smashing his bat and helmet and screaming at no one in particular.

The outburst seemed to help. Davis reached base three times that day and hardly looked back, hitting .265 with 27 homers and a .913 OPS the rest of the way. From June 9 through season's end, only two other players in baseball hit that many homers with that high of an OPS: Miguel Cabrera, who won the American League MVP Award, and Ryan Braun, who finished second in National League MVP Award voting.

"I ended up proving that I still belong here," Davis said.

Though Davis' final .227 batting average still eats at him, he is beginning to understand that the front office -- not to mention opposing pitchers -- will gloss over that figure if his power production remains high.

Still just 25 years old, Davis has the tools to continue proving himself in seasons to come. He is fully healed from the bone bruise in his left ankle that nearly wrecked his career. And as for the Valley Fever scare, a recent checkup revealed a clear set of lungs.

Another reason for Davis to be excited heading into spring.

"[I'm] not wondering about whether my ankle will hold up or being exhausted and just trying to get back," he said. "I lost the rhythm of the game because I was out for so long, and this year's going to be different just because I'm healthy, and I'm going to come in with more energy and probably stronger than last."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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