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Pirates notebook: Former Met Davis returns to Queens

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates first baseman Ike Davis talks with Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche during the seventh inning Sunday, May 25, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates first baseman Ike Davis talks with Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche during the seventh inning Sunday, May 25, 2014, at PNC Park.
AP - Pirates first baseman Ike Davis (15) takes the throw to record the out on the Mets' Juan Lagares during the seventh inning, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates first baseman Ike Davis (15) takes the throw to record the out on the Mets' Juan Lagares during the seventh inning, Monday, May 26, 2014, in New York.

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Monday, May 26, 2014, 12:45 p.m.
 

NEW YORK – Ike Davis took in an unusual view of Citi Field on Monday, as he met with reporters in the third-base dugout — the visiting team's in-game quarters — prior to the Pirates' series-opening game against the New York Mets.

After several up-and-down seasons in New York, the former Mets first-round pick was traded to the Pirates in late April. Monday marked Davis' first game back in Queens.

“It's weird. I've never been over to the visiting side,” Davis said. “I'm getting used to the clubhouse first, and then I'll see how that walk to home plate is during the game. ... I did not circle (the series) on the calendar. I saw it. I saw it was pretty soon. I was looking forward to it. It's going to be fun. I like doing stuff that's new.”

The 27-year-old has performed well since the trade. In 32 games as a Pirate, covering 114 at-bats, Davis entered Monday batting .303 with a .395 on-base percentage. Davis was batting .208 at the time of the trade.

Davis batted cleanup for the fourth straight day Monday.

“(The trade) has been positive, for sure,” Davis said. “The fans wanted a new beginning at first base here. (Mets first baseman Lucas) Duda is a good player. It's been a positive for both of us.”

Part of the spike in performance might be tied to a more relaxing environment from a media and public perspective.

Said Davis of the difference between playing Pittsburgh vs. New York: “(It's) going to get coffee, and I don't get hitting tips. Maybe that's the best thing. I don't have to think about my stance at nine in the morning.”

But the Pirates also helped Davis with mechanical and philosophical changes. Pirates hitting coach Jeff Branson did not approach Davis immediately following the trade, but Branson has since worked with Davis on taking some bend out of his right leg in his batting stance.

Manager Clint Hurdle said the Pirates have also asked Davis to be more contact and less power oriented. Davis hit as many as 32 home runs in a season (2012) with the Mets but has just three homers this season. With the Pirates, he has as many strikeouts as walks.

“We encouraged him coming in that we didn't need him to be a power hitter. We're looking for a good hitter that has some power,” Hurdle said. “I think that helped his mindset coming in. … He's tension-free pre-swing. His strike-zone discipline has been in a good place.”

Hurdle said he has asked Davis to not try to do too much in coming back to Citi Field.

“Most of those reasons you talk about are with people that still have rocks in their shoes,” Hurdle said. “I think he dumped his shoes when he got here. We encouraged him to do that.”

Pirates designate Mazzaro

The Pirates designated reliever Vin Mazzaro for assignment to make room for Brandon Cumpton on the 25-man roster. Mazzaro had a 3.48 ERA in five appearances out of the bullpen. Mazzaro, who is out of options, was also designated for assignment by the Pirates out of spring training. Mazzaro cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A. The Pirates now have two open spots on their 40-man roster. Mazzaro had a 2.81 ERA with the Pirates last season.

Davis reflects on Memorial Day

Each of Davis' late grandfathers served in World War II. Davis said his grandfather from his father's side received two Purple Hearts.

“He couldn't go through metal detectors in airports because he had shrapnel all over him,” Davis said. “We should probably give (veterans) more than a day to celebrate (service).”

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