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Davis rapidly making a name for himself

Davis rapidly making a name for himself

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The change had been initiated long before the first day Ike Davis brought his strapping body, soft glove, loud bat and considerable future back to he Mets' clubhouse 10 days ago. It was in early November. A number of Mets staff members had traveled to Arizona to take in some game in the Fall League. And there, they were quite taken with Davis -- his size, power, contact, defense and his sense of how the game ought to be played.

Davis had made his marks as a first baseman and left-handed hitter with power in Double-A last summer, but it was in the fall that the change began. No longer was he Ron Davis' kid; he had become Ike Davis with a rejoinder: "You know, his dad is Ron Davis, the guy who used to pitch for the Yankees."

And now, he is Ike Davis, period. Or exclamation point. At age 22 -- he turns 23 in three weeks -- and with two seasons as a professional, Davis stands on his own. No paternal connection noted or needed.

Jenrry Mejia appears to have passed Fernando Martinez and Josh Thole as the Mets' primary prospect; Davis may pass all three before next autumn.

"He's coming, and he is going to push everyone in this camp," general manager Omar Minaya said before Davis reported.

This Mets administration has been particularly cautious in its public conversations about its young players. Even their private assessments often are qualified. Not so with Davis. Not since David Wright brought his career to the threshold of the big leagues in spring 2004 have the Mets spoken with such conviction about an unproven player.

"Real deal" is what the scouts say. And their estimated time of arrival isn't much different from Minaya.

Davis did nothing to damage his image Tuesday, when he played nine innings in the Mets' first Spring Training game, a 4-2 victory over the Braves. He badly misjudged a foul popup -- went foul, no harm. But he also contributed a single and a double in three at-bats and reminded those who watched John Olerud play with the Mets of the importance of tall first basemen.

A potential double-play relay in the ninth inning was thrown high and off the base by shortstop Russ Adams. Davis got his 6-foot-4 frame off the ground and saved an error. Nothing spectacular, but Steve Garvey would have needed extra inches in his Gold Glove. And in a camp that has had a theme of improved defense, Davis' play was noticed and appreciated.

"I had a terrible day in the field," he said, noting he hadn't handled a few plays with customary aplomb -- but no one other than Davis was upset. "I'm usually better than that."

He had overcome the anticipated first at-bat nerves, but this time, it took him two at-bats.

"I'm usually really excited the first time I get up each year," Davis said. "The first pitch, and then it starts to go away. But [Braves starter Tommy] Hanson really painted it. I needed a second at-bat."

His second came in the fifth, when he led off with a booming double to right against right-hander Jesse Chavez. Davis' single in the sixth was through the left side. That it came against left-hander Mike Dunn didn't go unnoticed either.

Little of what Davis will do in March will go unnoticed, not that any of it will win him a place on the big league roster. The Mets still are reinforcing and shining their spotlight on Daniel Murphy. With no mention of Murphy, manager Jerry Manuel made it clear he isn't looking for an alternative at first base, even if the team's defense will be enhanced.

Davis' time doesn't come until next season, or maybe September. If, somehow, Murphy had been traded over the winter, the Mets would have brought in a one-year first baseman. The phrase "until Davis is ready next year" was heard on several occasions during the offseason.

Davis never has heard it. But a sense of it exists in his thinking.

"When I was in high [Class] A last year, the big leagues seemed so far away," he said. "But when I got to Double-A and started hitting the ball well, I said, 'Hey, I'm actually a call away.' ... It actually happens that guys get called up from Double-A.

"Hopefully, it could be this year, maybe next year. But now, I do think if I can be consistent, then I'll get up there."

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
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