SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Wade Davis has again entered spring training as the Colorado Rockies' closer after a rough 2019 season.
Davis – a dominating relief pitcher in the Kansas City Royals’ back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015 – lost his ninth-inning role in the final two months last year, when he finished 1-6 with 15 saves and an 8.65 ERA in the least effective effort of an 11-year career.
"It sucks when you're not doing well at anything, anything in life," Davis said. "The biggest thing is to move past it. That's when you learn and grow. You work harder. You prepare and you are at ease with what happened and your struggles. That's why I feel good about where I'm at now, despite whatever."
Scott Oberg took over as closer and pitched well before a blood clot in his right shoulder forced him to miss the final six weeks of the season and required offseason surgery, though he is healthy this spring and will join Davis in the back end of the bullpen.
"I think in a perfect world, Wade is our closer and Scotty pitches in front of him in some capacity, whether it is an inning or one-plus or two innings," Colorado manager Bud Black said. "Our best scenario thing is if Wade returns to form and pitches as closer when he is available, and Scott and others pitch those other innings."
Black said his confidence in Davis' return is based on "Wade himself, the guy he is, and his stuff."
The 34-year-old Davis has a resume that includes a World Series ring with Kansas City in 2015, a 1.80 ERA in 30 postseason appearances and four All-Star Game appearances.
"You know, you see the best in the world struggle," Davis said. "You see them come back and do good. There are not too many guys that don't have a rough patch in their career."
Health appeared to play a major role in Davis' struggles.
Davis was 1-1 with seven saves and a 2.45 ERA in 17 appearances before landing on the injury list with a strained oblique muscle in late May. He ran into trouble upon returning three weeks later, giving up seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings with two blown saves in a four-game series against San Diego.
Davis said it took him until December to fully recover.
"I did focus a lot on maintaining that area and getting stronger," Davis said of his offseason regimen. "There's an injury I'd never had before. So definitely, I can feel the difference now."
The injury hindered his ability to rotate during his delivery and square up to the plate before release.
"You'll always be out of balance, basically, is what it feels like," Davis said. "But, you know, I felt good enough."
Oberg was 6-1 with five saves and a 2.25 ERA in 49 appearances last season before being shut down after his last save Aug. 16.
He had surgery to enlarge an artery in his right shoulder, a procedure he was told will alleviate further issues. Oberg also missed the final six weeks of the 2016 season with a blood clot in the same shoulder.
Oberg received a three-year, $13 million contract last December.
"The sample size was so small, it is still kind of tough to know if I really picked up anything significant enough where I can carry that moving forward," Oberg said of serving as closer last season. "I'm still always leaning on Wade because he has so much experience, especially deep playoff runs. Being in the role that he's been for a lot of years, I always try to pick his brain."