ANAHEIM — He had been up and down in the bullpen, up and down at least twice, up and down for maybe, what, the thousandth time or so in the past 10 years? Two-thousandth?
Mark Davis is a man who knows about ups and downs.
This moment, though, was different. For the first time in three weeks, the moment was an up rather than a down. Kansas City Manager Hal McRae had actually told Davis he would be pitching the eighth. So, on Friday night in Anaheim, Davis peeked through the bullpen fence in deep left field, waiting for the California Angels to bat in the seventh.
OK, so it was getting late. So a good portion of the 40,407 in attendance were already maneuvering their cars toward the freeways. So the Angels held a commanding 5-0 lead.
It didn't matter to Davis. For the first time in, unbelievably, 21 days, Davis was actually going to pitch.
He has not been hurt. He has not been suspended. He has not been happy.
He used to count saves. Now he counts days.
Mark Davis, who collected 74 saves and one Cy Young award during 2 1/2 seasons in San Diego, then parlayed that into a four-year, $13-million contract, is now Kansas City's mop-up man.
His appearance on Friday was his first in a major league game since May 22. He has spoken with Royal General Manager Herk Robinson about his role. Two weeks ago, he visited with McRae.
"It's nothing I want to get into, other than we have 11 pitchers on the staff and I'm the 11th pitcher," Davis said quietly. "That's the way it's going to be for right now."
Does anyone know where magic goes?
Davis has looked. How he has looked.
For two seasons in San Diego, Davis' act with the baseball was like a magician's with a rabbit. He didn't pitch a baseball so much as he made it disappear. His sharp curve helped put more than one guy out of baseball.
And now, poof, Davis has disappeared.
For three seasons, he has sought his magic in bullpens from Kansas City to Anaheim. He has searched for it in clubhouse help sessions throughout the AL, in golf course chats from Omaha to Seattle, and on as many pitching mounds as he has dared climb.
"He still has good stuff," McRae said. "He doesn't take it to the mound, but he still has good stuff."
Asked if he has any theories as to why Davis is Secretariat in the bullpen and Mr. Ed in games, McRae just shakes his head.
"Nope," he said. "Only God knows. Why he doesn't take it to the mound, I don't know."
Can magic disappear overnight?
"Can it happen?" one Royal asked. "It did happen."
In Davis' first year in Kansas City, he lost his job as the closer within the first month of the season.
In his second year, while still ineffective, he had two stints on the disabled list because of problems with his left hand. One, he tried to barehand a ball and fractured his ring finger. Later, he tried to barehand another ball and tore a fingernail.
This season, after two years of Davis flops, the Royals decided to make him a starter. Why not? In five spot starts last season, he was 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA.
But after four starts this spring, with an 0-2 record and 9.60 ERA, he was banished to the bullpen.
Then, after walking five in only three innings in his first relief appearance, he was sent to the back corners of the bullpen.
Mostly, the Royals believe, Davis' problems are mental.
"I think he's trying to live up to the expectations of the money and the hype instead of pitching for himself and his teammates," said pitcher Mike Boddicker, one of Davis' closest friends on the team. "He's trying to pitch for everybody. He's trying to do even more than Mark Davis is capable of doing.
"As far as his stuff goes, there are not too many people in baseball with better stuff.
"You see him in the bullpen and say, 'There's no way anyone can hit him.' The difference is, he's relaxed down there. In games, he gets tight. Hyper-drive, we call it."
His last start before McRae had seen enough came on May 2 against Boston, and he allowed three runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings.
In addition to Davis' ineffectiveness, Kansas City started 1-16. McRae ran out of patience, deciding he had to make a few moves before the Royals' season ended before Mother's Day.
Davis doesn't think he got much of a chance in the rotation, but shrugs it off. What can he do?
"When you don't do well, and when you're 1-16, they felt like they needed to make changes," he said.
Now, Kansas City's season is 60 games old, and Davis has pitched a mere nine times. He has yet to pitch in a game that the Royals won.
Walks have been a major problem--he has walked 21 batters in 23 innings. By comparison, Kansas City starter Kevin Appier has walked only 27 batters in 93 1/3 innings.
"He still has the best left-handed curve in baseball," said Kansas City pitching coach Guy Hansen, who became close to Davis when he was the pitching coach at triple-A Omaha last summer and Davis went there on an injury rehabilitation assignment.
"He throws in the mid-80s; he's still a talented guy. I thought he would be a solid starter for us."