No longer a secret, speedy Johnny Davis will be on the run for Rays

From the Brewers minor-leagues to Mexico to the majors for Davis. Also, updates on Kiermaier, Milner, more.
Newly called-up Rays outfielder Johnny Davis, 29, was signed Aug. 29 out of the Mexican League, where he had 82 stolen bases in 161 games. Marc Topkin  |  Marc Topkin
Newly called-up Rays outfielder Johnny Davis, 29, was signed Aug. 29 out of the Mexican League, where he had 82 stolen bases in 161 games. Marc Topkin | Marc Topkin
Published September 11
Updated September 12

ARLINGTON, Texas — The stuff we knew about Johnny Davis before the Rays brought him to the majors Wednesday as their speedy September (and maybe October) secret weapon was interesting enough.

That he is a 29-year-old outfielder signed Aug. 29 out of the Mexican League, where he had stolen 82 bases in 161 games over two seasons. That he played in six games with Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham so Rays officials could get a look at him. And before that, he played six years in the Brewers system as a 2013 22nd-round pick from the Compton area of Los Angeles, getting to Triple A before being released in April 2018.

But what we learned after he joined the team, amazed at his own whirlwind journey, makes for an even more intriguing and fascinating tale:

• Such as how his mother, and others, sacrificed to help him along the way.

“My mom went through hell for me,’’ Davis said. “My dad was in and out of jail. My mom had to fend for three boys. It was tough. We lived in shelters. My mom slept on floors in shelters so we could have the bed. My mom missed meals. We went through a lot.’’

• Such as how fast he claims to be, citing times that would be among the elite.

“If I tell you, you’re not going to believe it,’’ Davis said. “I ran a 6.09 (60-yard dash) before, I ran a 3.4 down the line (home to first). I can run.’’

• Such as how he didn’t play baseball, save for a few unwilling months as a 10- or 11-year-old, until pursuing it at West Los Angeles community college because some scouts were interested after hearing of him from younger brother Tyree.

“My mom put me in punishment when I was a kid, she made me go play baseball,’’ he said. “I played for a little bit, played for a few months. I didn’t really like it. I went to go play football and ran track. After high school, my little brother was getting scouted and they were like, ‘Tell me about your family,’ and he was like, ‘I’ve got a brother faster than me.’ And they were like, ‘No way.’ ”

• Such as how he then worked out for the Twins but was steered to junior college to become draft eligible and quickly picked up the game.

“I had a rough start,’’ he said. “I hit my first homer and I did Sammy Sosa (hop) all the way to first base. We were losing by 20, but I didn’t know the unwritten rules of baseball. I didn’t care. I was struggling.’’

• Such as how excited he was when Durham manager Brady Williams called him with the news late Tuesday as he was playing video games over the Internet with three friends: “I was like, ‘Brah, what I’ve been through, dawg, like this is the best news I could ever hear.’ ”

• Such as how crazy it is that the Rays go next to Los Angeles, so his mom, dad (who he said is out of jail) and the rest of his family can seem him as a major-leaguer.

Manager Kevin Cash said Davis will be used, obviously, as a pinch-runner, not just to steal bases but also situationally, such as scoring from first on a double, and also potentially as a defensive replacement.

Davis got his first chance Wednesday but it didn’t go well as he slipped when trying to steal second, then shortly thereafter got picked off first.

Medical matters: Milner, Kiermaier, Garcia, Sogard

Reliever Hoby Milner’s season is over as he will be shut down from throwing for three weeks due to a cervical nerve issue. He was placed on the 60-day injured list, opening a 40-man roster spot for Davis. “He had some disc issues in his neck that have irritated him,’’ Cash said. “He’s kind of managed it throughout the course of the season. But it’s really flared up here on him here recently.’’ … Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier remained in pain, restricted in his movements and very frustrated due to a neck strain that he said might be joint-related and not just muscular. Having tried heat, anti-inflammatories, muscle stimulation and acupuncture, Kiermaier was headed next to a chiropractor to see if an adjustment could provide any relief. “Everything is still all out of whack,’’ he said. … Outfielder Avisail Garcia was out of Wednesday’s lineup due to a glute strain but is considered day to day and available to pinch-hit. … Eric Sogard pinch-hit Tuesday but remains limited in his movements since fouling a ball off his right foot, enough that rookie Kean Wong got the start Wednesday in rightfield. … Tommy Pham returned to the lineup at DH and is close to returning to the outfield after dealing with a forearm/elbow issue, possibly Thursday. … Right-hander Yonny Chirinos (finger inflammation) threw 21 pitches to Brandon Lowe (quad strain, leg bruise) in a simulated game in Port Charlotte, and both were said to have done well.

Tuesday night replay

The Rays had plenty to be happy about Tuesday, tying the score on a two-run Austin Meadows homer in the eighth, then hustling their way to a 5-3 win as the Rangers made two throwing errors on the same play in the 11th.

But they also were upset that the MLB replay crew didn’t reverse what they felt was a blatantly bad call at first to rule Nick Solak safe on what would have been the final out. Instead they ruled the call “stands,” meaning they didn’t have definitive evidence to overturn.

Several Rays expressed their frustration after the game, and Cash said Wednesday that they feel there have been a number of questionable decisions.

“I think the process for what it is, they’re doing everything they can to get it right,’’ he said. “Saying that, there have been four or five calls here of late that we certainly feel could have gone the other way. (Tuesday) night, pretty confident could have gone the other way and ended the game right there. I think our representatives with the Rays have talked to Major League Baseball, and they’ve got some things ironed out. The biggest thing is we’ve got a young guy in Bobby (Kinne, replay coordinator) doing that. He’s done a really good job for us. He’s got one chance, probably one bullet to impact the game. And when he does, you want to see it go the right way, because he’s doing his job really, really well.’’

Miscellany

• Triple-A Durham sent Josh Fleming to the mound Wednesday but lost 7-4 to Columbus, going down 2-0 in the best-of-five International League championship series. Lefty Blake Snell starts Thursday’s Game 3 for the Bulls in his second and final rehab outing in his return from July 29 elbow surgery.

• Lefty Brendan McKay said it might be challenging to keep a straight face in Thursday’s start the first time he faces Solak, as the two were college teammates at Louisville and Rays minor-leaguers together.

• Peter Fairbanks worked the 11th Tuesday for his first big-league save. The former Ranger said he was motivated in part by “the idiots in the stands chirping, ‘That’s why we traded you.’ ”

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