Davis's comeback journey is harder to follow than one of his vaunted curveballs. After saving 44 games to win the Cy Young Award with the Padres in '89, Davis signed a four-year, $13 million contract with the Royals as a free agent, suffered through an injury-filled '90 season and never regained his top form. He was banished by Kansas City and played briefly for the Braves and the Phillies before returning to the Padres, who released him in '94 with an 8.82 ERA. He was out of baseball in '95 and '96, during which time he had surgery on his left elbow and shoulder.
So when Davis entered the offices of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks in December, he wasn't expecting to get another shot at playing in the big leagues; he was looking for a job in the team's p.r. department. After interviewing there, he was sent to the baseball operations office, where he made an offhand remark about perhaps applying for a job as a pitcher. He was invited to spring training and eventually assigned to the Diamondbacks' Class A team in the California League, where he had a 2.66 ERA in 16 games. Since Arizona doesn't have a team at a higher level of the minors, Davis was then loaned to the Brewers' Triple A team in Tucson, where he struck out 19 in 22⅔ innings. When the Brewers failed in several other attempts to trade for a lefty reliever, they got Davis from Arizona for a player to be named later.
The acquisition of the wizened Davis is hardly a departure in philosophy for a scavenging Milwaukee team that has wrung 25 saves out of 40-year-old reliever Doug Jones. "Jones has proven that you can have success with an older guy coming off an injury, and that's why we took this chance [on Davis]," Milwaukee manager Phil Garner says.
Hours after arriving in Milwaukee last Friday, Davis made his big league return against the Angels. He struggled, allowing one run in two thirds of an inning. He redeemed himself on Sunday by throwing a perfect 1-2-3 inning in the Brewers' 5-2 win over Oakland. Asked if it seemed like forever since his Cy Young season, Davis replied, "Yes, it does. Basically, that was a different career."
Life's a Beech
In an auspicious major league debut on Aug. 8, 1996, Phillies pitcher Matt Beech defeated four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux, 4-1. Beech then made 22 starts without getting another win, until finally breaking the skid on Aug. 12 with a 5-0 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field. During his streak Beech had an 0-11 record with a 6.50 ERA. "At this rate," Beech said after his long-awaited victory, "in 18 years I'll be a 20-game winner."
The Yankees may have improved their postseason prospects last week when they designated Mark Whiten for assignment, meaning they have seven days to option him to the minors, trade him or release him. Getting rid of Whiten is not a plus just because the slumping outfielder had no homers and one RBI in his last 20 games. The Yanks also rid themselves of Whiten's lousy karma. Since his major league career began in '90, Whiten has played for eight teams—Toronto, Cleveland, St. Louis, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle and the Yankees—all of which have reached the playoffs during the decade. Remarkably, none of them did so while Whiten was on the roster.