Pirates notebook: After escaping New York, Davis returns

Yankees catcher Brian McCann pops the ball out of his glove after Pirates first baseman Ike Davis struck out in the eighth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
Yankees catcher Brian McCann pops the ball out of his glove after Pirates first baseman Ike Davis struck out in the eighth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
Photo by AP
Travis Sawchik
| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 4:39 p.m.

NEW YORK — Ike Davis escaped from New York last month with his trade to the Pirates.

On Saturday, he returned to the city where he received intensive public scrutiny regarding his struggles with the Mets. For example, the New York Daily News headline a day after Davis was traded April 19: “Take a Hike, Ike!”

The Pirates were hoping a change of scenery would help the former first-round pick reach his potential and boost the Pirates' first base production. And perhaps the power of changing scenery explains Davis' first month with the Pirates. Davis entered Yankee Stadium batting .285 with a .382 on-base percentage since being traded. Davis was batting .208 at the time of the trade.

What's the biggest benefit in leaving New York?

“It's calmer. I don't know if it's a plus or a minus. It's just different cities. It's just different. I don't know if it's better or worse. I was happy (there). I'm happy now,” Davis said. “I'm playing better. If I had stayed with the Mets, who knows what I'd be hitting, but right now I feel pretty good at the plate.”

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said certain players benefit by leaving New York.

“I do believe in it because I know of multiple players who have gone there and maybe a year in they were re-thinking the process,” said Hurdle after Davis was acquired. “It is a place only a certain kind of player can play in and play well. … I played in New York as a part-time player. It was dramatically different than playing in St. Louis as a part-time player or in Kansas City or Cincinnati.”

What's the biggest difference in playing New York? Hurdle said it is the media spotlight. For example, Davis was surrounded by a much larger media contingent before his locker on Saturday, peppered with questions for more than 20 minutes.

“There's more scrutiny once you leave the park than anywhere else and there's tons more scrutiny at the park,” Hurdle said. “From a player's perspective, especially if you get in that situation Ike was in ... all the sudden all you are doing is answering questions.”

When Davis met with Hurdle after being traded, Hurdle told Davis he had a “blank chalkboard” with the Pirates.

Still, Davis added there's still pressure to perform in Pittsburgh, too.

Said Davis: “You still get booed if you strike out.”

Grilli throws another simulated game

Pirates closer Jason Grilli threw a 20-pitch, simulated game Saturday, his second simulated game since straining his left oblique. Hurdle said Grilli will throw another simulated game in Pittsburgh early next week before the team decides on the next step in his return from the disabled list.

“I thought the breaking ball shaped up better than the last time out,” Hurdle said. “I thought it was a very good step forward to him.”

Martin progresses

Pirates catcher Russell Martin caught a bullpen, ran the bases and faced live pitching Saturday. Martin said he does not need a rehab assignment in returning from a hamstring pull. Martin will do more catching activities Sunday. “I was running pretty aggressively, which was encouraging,” Martin said.

He said it

Hurdle on Derek Jeter, who likely meets the Pirates for the final time this weekend:

“I shared with Tony Gwynn when he came to Colorado for the last time, I said ‘I don't know how good you are, but I know you've been hot for like 18 years.' I look at Jeter … he's great. When you're good for a long time, that's how you establish greatness.”

Marte returns, Stolmy throws

Starling Marte returned to the starting lineup for the first time since injuring his back a week ago. He batted fifth. … Stolmy Pimentel threw a 28-pitch bullpen session. Hurdle said Pimentel probably will be sent to Bradenton, Fla., for rehab work.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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