CHICAGO – It’s always good when an organization takes care of one of its own, and the Cubs are doing that with catcher Taylor Davis.
Last week, the Cubs made the 27-year-old Davis one of their September call-ups. It was the first trip to the big leagues for Davis, culminating a journey that began in July 2011, when the Cubs signed him as a nondrafted free agent. Davis was drafted in the 49th round by the Marlins in 2008, but he opted for college at Morehead State.
His big-league debut came Friday against the Brewers. He struck out as a pinch hitter.
“It’s been a wild ride, but obviously [Friday] night was kind of the pinnacle,” he said. “The good news is it can only go up from there, right? It’s a lot fun to be here.”
Davis worked his way up the Cubs' system, from Rookie ball to Triple-A Iowa. He was a nonroster invitee to spring training this year and last. At Iowa this season, he put up a line of .297/.357/.429 with six homers and 62 RBIs. He entered this season with a career minor league line of .279/.348/.412.
“I haven’t really thought about it being a reward,” he said of the call-up. “More or less a cool opportunity. I don’t really think into what [the Cubs] are thinking. I think it’s something for me that was neat and exciting.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who spent many years coaching and managing in the minors, can relate to Davis.
“Awesome,” Maddon said. “He’s definitely not afraid. I love that about the guy. He’s totally in the moment always. Yeah, it is good. It’s good for him, for his family. It’s just good for baseball. It’s good on a lot of different levels. And it was not lost on me.”
Like many veteran nonroster invitees to spring-training camps, Davis said one thing kept him going all these years.
“Love of the game,” he said. “If you look at my career, I’ve had a lot of years that were tough – playing, not playing, things of that nature. It’s been a lot of fun, and I think it just shows that I had to love the game to do it, to keep going.”
While at Iowa this year, Davis gained some fame by being caught staring into the TV cameras, from pregame activities to in-game action. The Iowa Cubs tweeted out a video doing the stare, and it caught on.
“We had a teammate last year, Kris Negron,” Davis said. “He did it. This year, I tried to take it with me. People really liked it, thought it was funny. I ran with it. It became a thing. I didn’t know the video was coming out until the very end (of his stay at Iowa). So that was pretty cool.”
As for what he hopes to take from the experience with the Cubs in September, he said: “I hope to take a World Series ring home at some point. That’s the goal, obviously. Just learning from these veterans, man. I look around me, the lockers around me. It’s a really cool opportunity to be with this team, to be with these veterans. They can teach you the right way to play the game.”
The roller-coaster ride: Despite the weekend sweep at the hands of the Brewers, the Cubs entered Monday two games up on Milwaukee and St. Louis in the National League Central.
It’s been quite a ride in the standings. At the All-Star break, the Cubs were 43-45 and 5½ games behind the Brewers. The Cubs took over first place July 26 and have held at least a share of the top spot since then.
But they missed a big chance to put some real distance between themselves and the Brewers over the weekend. The two teams meet Sept. 21 to 24 in Milwaukee. The Cubs have seven games left with the Cardinals, three this weekend at Wrigley Field and four Sept. 25 to 28 at Busch Stadium.
“Just as quickly as you could lose a game or two, you can also gain that right back, just the way this game works,” Maddon said. “So I really try to focus on today, not unlike the rest of the year.
“Also, enjoy the pennant race. Right now, enjoy this whole thing because we’re in a position once again to go back to the playoffs. It’s something you never want to take for granted. You never want to take 90 wins for granted. You never want to take any of that stuff for granted. So enjoy the moment. Enjoy the day. I always look at it with a positive outlook.”
Cubs vs. New York Mets at Wrigley Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Tuesday; WGN Wednesday; ABC 7 Thursday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs’ Jose Quintana (5-3 with Cubs) vs. Robert Gsellman (6-6), Tuesday; Jon Lester (10-7) vs. Matt Harvey (5-4), Wednesday; Mike Montgomery (5-8) vs. Seth Lugo (6-4), Thursday. All games 7:05 p.m.
At a glance: The Mets took two of three from the Cubs at Citi Field in June, but that was a far different Mets team. Management has traded several players away, and the disabled list is a who’s who of Mets stars. The Mets (63-80) are fourth in the NL East with a run differential of minus-78. They did enter Monday leading the NL in homers, but their pitchers were 14th in ERA. The Cubs (77-66) enjoyed Monday off, their first day off after 20 games in 20 days. They have a run differential of plus-71, and their hitters entered Monday ranked second in on-base percentage.
Next: St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field, Friday-Sunday
– Bruce Miles