I’m a big advocate of Independent League baseball, and I always love to read about when someone works their way through the ranks. Whether it is back to minors or they’re finally getting their opportunity, it shows just how hard it is to even get that chance.
In late December I wrote a piece on Tony Davis, a left-handed reliever for the Independent Quebec Capitales of the Can-Am League. In 20 games for the Capitales Davis allowed only three runs in 17 innings, posting a sparkling 1.06 ERA.
In 112 professional games (including his time with the Capitales) his ERA stands at 3.58 in 161 innings, striking out 139 and having a win/loss of 11-7.
He was gracious enough to spend some time speaking with The GM’s Perspective to discuss his new opportunity with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Devon Teeple: You’re a four-year professional, but you have taken a different route to get back to the Minors through the Independent Leagues. Did you find that a huge setback in your eyes considering you put up really great numbers in the Minnesota Twins organization?
Tony Davis: There are many ways I could have looked at it, but it truly was a blessing. Playing in Quebec was good for me in so many ways. The game became fun for me again. I got to be a part of a championship ballclub, and it really helped me find myself again as a pitcher. I was able to drop my arm slot to a low side arm in hopes of catching on with a team as a left-handed specialist. There is nothing I would change about the path I have taken thus far in my career.
DT: How is the caliber of hitters in the Independent League compared to Single-A or Double-A or Triple-A?
TD: Well I haven’t yet pitched in Triple-A, but I can tell you there are some extremely good hitters that I faced in Indy ball. Many of them had years of minor league / major league time under their belts, so the competition was great. I will say I think the talent level that is spread throughout independent ball is highly underrated by the average fan that compares it to affiliated minor league ball.
DT: I was a relief pitcher in the Frontier League in 2001 with the Gateway Grizzlies and River City Rascals. One of my teammates said there is not really that much difference between us and the pitchers who get drafted. It’s about being in the right place at the right time. Is that true?
TD: It’s hard to really know for sure. I will say timing and a little luck definitely have to be involved. There are guys I played with in Indy ball who have never had a shot to play affiliated ball and it absolutely blows my mind that they haven’t. Take Jeff Duda for example. He was 15-1 with a 2.10 ERA (120 strikeouts 26 walks in 116 innings). Sure, he’s not an 18-year-old with a 95 mph fastball, but the guy can flat out pitch. Isn’t that the name of the game?
DT: Was there at any point in time during your 2012 season with the Quebec Capitales where you were aware that the Jays might have in interest in signing you to a minor league contract?
TD: No. I had no idea at all. Of course eventually getting picked back up was my goal, but as the season wore on I was thinking less about that and was more trying to appreciate where this game has taken me, and soak up the awesome atmosphere Quebec had to offer. I have never played with a group of guys who cared so much about doing whatever it took to win. It was the most unselfish group I’ve ever been a part of. I can’t speak highly enough about the coaching staff either. They were at the very top of any coaches I’ve ever played for.
DT: The Blue Jays, at this time, are ripe with talent, and are considered World Series favorites according to the odds makers in Las Vegas, where do you see yourself with team this year?
TD: I’m not exactly sure yet where I fit into the Blue Jays plans. I will compete and give it all I have in spring training, but I’m not concerned with where I start. I am so honored to be wearing a uniform and trust the plan they will have in place for me.
DT: You are now in an organization that has, if I am correct, 13 new players including Mark Beuhrle, Josh Johnson and reigning NL CY Young award winner R.A. Dickey. What can you learn from them while in spring training?
TD: Well, to be honest, there’s a chance I might not even get to see them! Since I am over in minor league camp at a different complex, we don’t see a whole lot of the big leaguers. If I do get to dress for any big league spring training games as I got to do with the Twins, I will soak up every detail I can about how those guys go about their business. They are true professionals in every sense of the word.
DT: You arrived in spring training Feb. 25, a little later than everyone else. What is your role at this point? And what are you looking to accomplish by opening day?
TD: Minor league spring training for pitchers and catchers didn’t start until March the 2nd. I know my role will be a short reliever (no pun intended for my 5’9" frame) but don’t know much more beyond that. I plan on getting accustomed to how the Blue Jays do things and be aggressive and confident once games start.
DT: This has been a long road, but who has stuck by you along the way through this journey?
TD: I have a wonderful support group and it starts with my wife, Brittany. My entire family always focuses so much on the positive, and there is no way I could do what I do without them in my corner.