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The legend of new Rays speedster Johnny Davis grows - quickly, of course

He shows off that elite speed Friday with a triple for his first hit, then some pent-up emotion afterward.
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jalen Beeks, left, and Johnny Davis congratulate each other after the Rays defeated the Los Angeles Angels 11-4 in a baseball game Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) [MARK J. TERRILL | AP]
Published Sep. 15
Updated Sep. 15

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Johnny Davis is known for his blazing speed, so it probably figures that his legend is growing quickly with the Rays.

As if being signed out of the Mexican League in late August, called up to make his big-league debut Wednesday as a 29-year-old rookie (and being picked off as a pinch-runner) and getting to come home to Los Angeles to see family and friends as the Rays play back-to-back series against the Angels and Dodgers wasn’t enough, consider this:

After playing leftfield in the eighth inning Friday, Davis led off the ninth and got a hit his first time to the plate in the majors, choking up on his bat, slapping a ball into the leftfield corner and racing to third, then later tagging up to score.

First fly ball caught, first hit, first run.

And the first time his parents saw him play baseball at any level.

“I cried to myself in the bathroom last night,’’ Davis said Saturday.

There were plenty of laughs, too. His Rays teammates gathered postgame in the clubhouse first to laud his accomplishments, then to “celebrate” by putting him in a laundry cart and pouring beer and more on him.

“I felt soap, I felt aftershave in my ear, I felt cold beer,’’ Davis said. “There might have been some ketchup in there, too. I don’t know. There was a lot of different stuff, a lot of different textures.’’

Davis rode with his mom to their home in the Compton area of Los Angeles afterward and got to visit with friends and relatives who supported him along the way. “That was a special moment,’’ he said.

Also of bizarre coincidence: He and his buddies grew up wearing Rays hats with the TB logo, and he has a “T” and “B” tattooed on his arms because they were from the Tejada block area.

Davis is the first player in Rays franchise history to triple in his first career plate appearance, and the first to do so in the majors since April 2015, when Tyler Ladendorf did so for Texas. (Odder, Laden­dorf and Davis were briefly teammates last week at Triple-A Durham.) Davis is the second Ray to get a triple for his first hit, joining Juniel Querecuto, who did so in 2016.

Davis was timed by Statcast getting to third in 11.18 seconds and covering 30.5 feet per second, which is considered elite. He said that he was thinking triple from the start and that there is more to come: “I felt like I was running in mud.’’

Targeting 20

On Friday, Willy Adames hit his 18th homer, the fifth most of any AL shortstop. He has his eye on more going forward and definitely would like to get to 20 this season. “That’s a number I want to reach,’’ he said. “It hasn’t been my best year hitting-wise. There’s been a lot of downs, a lot more than ups. It’s been a learning process this whole year for me. I know now what I can do and what I can’t do for next year.’’ Adames went into Saturday hitting .252 with 23 doubles, 45 RBIs, a .726 OPS and 141 strikeouts in 541 plate appearances.

Lined up right

Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier and second baseman Eric Sogard were back in the lineup together Saturday for the first time in more than a week, as both have been dealing with injuries. They give the Rays a better look against right-handed starters. Kiermaier returned to center in the final innings Friday, his first action since last Sunday as he dealt with a severe neck strain that caused him considerable pain and limited his mobility. He said he still has some issues but is continuing treatments and anti-inflammatories, and felt ready to get back on the field. Plus, the adrenaline boost from doing so also helped. “I’m not anywhere near 100 percent, but it’s definitely good enough where I feel like I’m capable of doing what other people can do out there, and even better in that regard,’’ he said. Sogard had been limited to pinch-hitting since fouling a ball off his right foot Sept. 6, concerned about pushing off while playing defense. Except for rookie Nate Lowe who was the DH in place of Avisail Garcia, it might be the Rays’ optimal lineup versus a righty.

Miscellany

• Ji-Man Choi was called out on strikes in his first at-bat Saturday, ending his team-record streak of reaching base at 10 plate appearances.

• Brendan McKay has gone back to working on his hitting, and he is available for use as a pinch-hitter in between starts, though the Rays obviously have numerous other options. He will get to swing Wednesday when he starts against the Dodgers in an NL-rules games.

• Manager Kevin Cash said that Blake Snell is officially set to return to the mound Tuesday against the Dodgers, which, besides being a 10:10 p.m. Tampa Bay time start, is also another YouTube exclusive game, meaning no Fox Sports Sun coverage.

• Righty Jose De Leon was activated, giving the Rays a 37-man active roster, tying the team record until Snell is activated to break it.

• Angels superstar Mike Trout was not in the lineup again Saturday, dealing with a right foot issue, but he said he plans to play Sunday.

• It’s a rare travel day for the Rays after Sunday’s game as they will need only a bus in changing opponents for the 33-mile trip (though potentially an hour-plus trip in L.A. traffic) from Angel Stadium to the hotel in Pasadena, Calif., where they will stay for the series against the Dodgers.


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