Davidson has dream outing

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It wasn't just another day at the yard for the Pittsburgh Pirates' David Davidson.

"I told some guys in the bullpen that this is the first time in five seasons I've ever heard Oh Canada played before a game," said the lefty from St. Catharines.

Pirates manager Jim Tracy had Davidson on the mound to protect a two-run lead in the top of the ninth. He allowed two unearned runs and the Blue Jays and Pirates battled to a 10-inning, 8-8 tie.

Davidson, 22, was two strikes away from a save in his first major-league camp, against a team he rooted for as a youngster.

"Pat Borders, Juan Guzman and Kelly Gruber were my favourites," Davidson said. "This (Spring Training) is the first time I've faced big leaguers. It has been a wonderful experience."

Davidson made his debut against the New York Yankees. He walked Josh Phelps leading off, retired the next hitter and then sawed off Miguel Cairo for an inning-ending double play.

His day started easy enough yesterday with the two-run lead and he retired Sergio Santos looking at strike three.

Gregg Zaun blooped a 2-2 pitch to right and Davidson hit Kevin Barker in the helmet with a curveball. Ryan Patterson bounced to second and the flip was made, but shortstop Javier Guzman dropped the ball for an error, loading the bases. Davidson then struck out Ryan Roberts looking.

Rob Crosby hit a two-run single to left and Davidson got another grounder, ending the inning.

"They only hit one ball hard," said Davidson, who had a 12.91 earned run average with the rookie-class Gulf Coast Pirates in 2003 and a 9.78 ERA with single-A Hickory in 2005.

He turned a corner in 2006, starting at Hickory (72 strikeouts in 56 innings), earning a promotion to single-A Lynchburg and a bump to double-A Altoona.

"The only difference was being healthy," Davidson said. "Getting comfortable, that was the biggest thing."

There certainly wasn't anything big about his ERA. In his combined three 2006 stops he had a 2.01 mark, with 96 strikeouts in 76 innings, walking 33.

After a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League, he was added to the Bucs 40-man roster. Not bad for a soccer player who had to be pushed into baseball.

"My uncle (Robert Fraser) umped and always said how strong my arm was. He'd say, 'You're good, try baseball,' " Davidson said. "Then, I had good coaching from Marc Picard."

A 10th-round pick of the Pirates in 2002, Davidson was part of what is considered the best class of Canucks ever. Atop the pile are Adam Loewen, selected fourth overall by the Baltimore Orioles and Jeff Francis, chosen ninth, by the Colorado Rockies.

And don't forget Russell Martin (Los Angeles Dodgers); Jesse Crain (Minnesota Twins) and Scott Mathieson (Philadelphia Phillies); and minor leaguers Joey Votto and James Avery (Cincinnati Reds); Chris Leroux (Florida Marlins); Luke Carlin (San Diego Padres); Shawn Bowman, Ivan Naccarata and Jonathan Malo (New York Mets); George Kottaras (Boston Red Sox); Michel Simard (Los Angeles Angels); Ryan McGovern (San Francisco Giants) and Chris Robinson (Chicago Cubs).

The previous time we saw Davidson pitch in Florida was with Team Ontario against a talented, but very yappy, Tampa high school five years ago this March break. He attempted to pick a runner off first and the Tampa team in dugout hooted as their teammate slid in safely.

The lefty threw over again with his throw sailing high. Eric Wolfe went high to for the catch, but the first baseman landed on the runner. Now, the Tampa dugout was screaming. How would he react?

Davidson threw a fastball underneath the hitter's chin, then struck him out with a breaking ball away and walked off.

The base ump, an ex-pro minor leaguer, saddled over to the fence and asked us, "What's that kid's name?" "Why?" we said.

"Because that kid has poise," the ump answered. "He's going some place."

He did.


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