Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Zach Davies has always been underestimated at first glance. The right-handed pitcher stands at 6-foot and 155 pounds with a face that looks much younger than 26 years old.
That’s been the case his entire life, even when he was a high school freshman at Mesquite High School.
“Other people that didn’t know him, they kind of look at this kid and see he’s 6-1, 140 pounds, Mesquite baseball coach Jeff Holland said. “‘How good could this kid be?’ He did a lot of talking with his defense and his pitching and his bat, it was unbelievable.”
Davies’ youthful appearance stuck through high school and into professional ball when he was a 2011 selection of the Orioles before being dealt to the Brewers for Gerardo Parra in 2015. He made his MLB debut that year and earned the nickname “Bat Boy.”
“Growing up, I’ve always been younger and I’ve always been smaller than everybody else,” Davies said. “So everybody jokes that I’m the bat boy, so I just had fun with it.”
— Zach Davies (@ZDavies3) August 25, 2017
That attitude helped Davies start 61 games in 2016 and 2017, posting a 3.94 ERA. The unassuming baby face was throwing his way into becoming a fixture in the Brewers’ rotation for years to come.
“There’s different people who play this game,” Davies said. “Guys that are smaller, guys that are very skilled at certain things can still play this game. I think that was another reason I wanted to (have that nickname).”
Seriously… ?♂️ pic.twitter.com/A08miM7T0w
— Zach Davies (@ZDavies3) November 23, 2017
Where the arm may not be overwhelming for the MLB vet, it’s what’s between the ears that has helped Davies get to the big show.
“I’ve been doing this for 24 years, and I’ve yet to even come close to having a player with that much knowledge of the game and being seasoned as a 14-years-old kid,” Holland said.
“Each year he got better. Each year he got other people better. He was another coach on the field….When he wasn’t pitching, he was playing shortstop directing traffic on the field playing defense and coming in the dugout and hitting “three” for us.”
Holland helped get the best out his young pitcher for multiple years and prepared him to make the jump from high school to pro ball.
“He was a great coach for me. It was something that I was used to was more of an old school guy,” Davies said. “He’ll tell you how it is and it won’t really matter if you like him or not. He’s going to play the best players out there. And make sure that you’re working hard and you’re working to better yourself.”
Now, Davies is looking to cement his spot in the Brewers’ rotation yet again. He only appeared in 13 games last year due to a rotator cuff injury. While the regular season was frustrating for him, he was still able to make the postseason roster last year when Gio Gonzalez suffered an injury late in the year.
“It was kind of a wasted year last year, so coming in at the end of the year and coming in healthy in the offseason with no restrictions and start camp healthy again, it’s everything to me.”
With that momentum and some time to step back from the field during his injury, he was able to examine his game to improve for the upcoming season. He threw five innings, gave up two runs and struck out six in his 2019 debut.
“There were some small mechanical changes, some small things in my video work and what other guys have done that I can replicate,” Davies said. “For me, everything has been about the mind game, being a little bit different pitcher. Not being the powerful guy but the guy that’s going to keep guys off-balance. Studying it more and kind of finding things that can help along the way.”
While he made tweaks to game, Davies is still harnessing his inner bat boy that impressed his high school coach and made hitters look silly as a 14-year-old at Mesquite.
“He’s technician on the mound,” Holland said. “He’ll find your weaknesses, he’ll keep you off-balance. You’re thinking a fastball is coming in this count and he’ll throw that Bugs Bunny change-up. You strikeout and go back to the dugout and go ,’How did that guy just beat me?’”
“He’ll find a way.”