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Rays have interest in free agent Matt Davidson as a two-way player

The Rays have interest in former White Sox infielder Matt Davidson as a two-way player. Here, Davidson makes one of his three pitching appearances against Toronto on July 27, 2018, in Chicago. The third baseman has retired all six batters he's faced in the majors — though usually he's playing third base. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)
The Rays have interest in former White Sox infielder Matt Davidson as a two-way player. Here, Davidson makes one of his three pitching appearances against Toronto on July 27, 2018, in Chicago. The third baseman has retired all six batters he's faced in the majors — though usually he's playing third base. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)
Published Jan. 13, 2019
Updated Jan. 14, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are interested in former White Sox infielder Matt Davidson as a potential two-way player.

The success of the Angels' Shohei Ohtani, last season's American League rookie of the year, as a designated hitter and pitcher will likely prompt more teams to pursue players who could be two-way options, especially with the value of each spot on a team's 25-man roster becoming more important.

Davidson, 27, was nontendered by the White Sox this offseason, when he was due to make about $2.4 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Davidson hit 46 home runs over the past two seasons but didn't take best advantage of that raw power with a .224 batting average, .291 on-base percentage and .435 slugging percentage.

The right-handed-hitting Davidson does own a career .804 on-base plus slugging percentage against left-handed pitching and had an impressive .289 batting average, .382 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage in 131 plate appearances against lefties last year, so he could offer the Rays a platoon compliment to Ji-Man Choi at first base while sharing time at third with Matt Duffy.

For the first time in his big-league career, Davidson was used as a relief pitcher last year. He made three one-inning appearances — all in the late innings of lopsided losses — and retired nine of the 11 hitters he faced while pitching three scoreless innings.

This offseason, Davidson, whose fastball averaged just under 90 mph last season, has been working on his pitching. He also used a curveball and a changeup last season.

For the Rays, who embrace out-of-the-box thinking and revolutionized pitching last season with its opener strategy, could having a position player who could pitch an inning here and there help them get the most out of their roster?

If the Rays do add Davidson as a two-way player, he would join Rays farmhand Brendan McKay as a pitcher-position player.

McKay, 23, has been working as a first baseman-pitcher since he was drafted fourth overall in 2017. Last season he pitched 781/3 innings, most of them coming with Class-A Charlotte, where he posted a 3.40 ERA over 472/3 innings in 11 games (nine starts). As a first baseman, McKay recorded a .214/.368/.359 hitting line with six homers and 39 RBIs.

The Rays' interest in Davidson was first reported by the website the Athletic.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.