SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) - On his 28th birthday last week, Chris Davis forked his way through a massive piece of peanut-butter cream pie.
It was a rare fling for the Baltimore Orioles first baseman, who dedicated the offseason to rebuilding his weary body following a summer in which he led the majors with 53 homers and 138 RBIs.
After earning fame, popularity and a third-place finish in the AL MVP balloting, Davis had no interest in earning hefty appearance fees on the dinner circuit as baseball’s new Home Run King. Instead, he holed up in Texas with his family, made frequent visits to a nearby 24-hour gym and adhered to a regimented diet.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound slugger now looks like he could play in 162 games and hit the ball a mile in every one of them.
“I’m about the same weight I was this time last year, but lower body fat,” Davis said. “Maybe that’s why I look bigger, I don’t know. But working out has always been real important to me.”
There once was a time when Davis would eat a whole pie out of the box without a shred of guilt. Those days are done.
“In 2007, when I was in the minor leagues in High A and I was about 265, I ate (poorly),” he recalled. “I was 21 years old. I was kind of starting to get to the point where you’re not in the high-school phase where you can just eat anything you want and just burn it off. I had to really adjust my diet.
“Eighty percent of the time I eat really clean, 20 percent of the time I’ll splurge, so to speak. As long as you listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs and doesn’t need. You cut carbs and you start to feel light-headed, that’s a good sign you might need a big piece of bread.”
Or a slab of pie. Whatever. Davis obviously is doing something right, as evidenced by his breakthrough 2013 season. Not only did he lead the majors in most power categories, including extra-base hits, but he made the All-Star team and earned a Silver Slugger Award.
“I was so proud of two things he did last year,” manager Buck Showalter said. “The way he handled all the adulation that came his way, and the defense he played. That’s why I thought he was so strong in the MVP running, because he was our MVP - running the bases, fielding his position, throwing the baseball.”
Showalter paused for an instant, grinned and added, “And yes, he did OK hitting, too.”
No one will ever be able to take that 2013 season away from Davis. But now, the inevitable question arises: What can the man nicknamed “Crush” do for an encore?
Babe Ruth had successive seasons with 50 home runs in 1920-21 and 1927-28. The next person to do it was Mark McGwire in 1996-97. McGwire later acknowledged using performance-enhancing drugs during that stage of his career.
Davis has never failed a drug test and adamantly denies using PEDs. But some still question the source of his power.