Davis stays stoic on emotional night
Fans, teammates cheer pitcher, who next faces cancer surgery
PHOENIX -- Doug Davis walked off the field to a standing ovation and into the unknown on Tuesday night.The D-backs left-hander's next scheduled outing is against thyroid cancer. He'll have surgery to remove that gland in his neck on Thursday. Davis will then face radiation-iodine therapy immediately thereafter in the form of a pill that will sap his energy for at least a couple of weeks. "No chemo," Davis said after pitching a solid six innings and earning the win as the D-backs defeated the Dodgers, 10-5, at Chase Field. "After I take the pill, six months later I'll have another CAT scan. That'll be in the offseason. And that will tell me whether the radiation killed all of it or not." In a best-case scenario, Davis will miss the next four to six weeks, although he said he's targeting his return for a trip to Chicago's Wrigley Field, where Arizona opens a three-game series on May 9. Whether that happens at this point will be up to his own recovery time and the fates. He acknowledged the obvious on Tuesday night: that he'll have to live without the thyroid and take medicine two to three times a day to substitute for the functionality of it. "I'm not going to have the thyroid for the rest of my life," Davis said. "They ain't going to give it back to me." Davis, one of the most popular players on the team, obviously had the support of the fans and from his teammates, who mobbed him in the dugout and urged him back out on the field at the close of the top of the sixth to doff his cap and take a curtain call as the 28,973 in the house recognized the magnitude of the moment. Davis informed the team about the pending surgery on March 27 and has continued to pitch, making two starts since the season began. "He's stayed the same guy through all of it," said catcher Chris Snyder, who caught Davis' six innings of six-hit, two-run ball. "He's got a positive outlook and we're going to be behind him the whole way." D-backs manager Bob Melvin called the performance "heroic," although Davis seemed to shun the hyperbole. To him it was just another day at the office. Davis had two singles and an RBI and easily mowed down the Dodgers on four singles through the first five innings. He struggled, though, to open the sixth, allowing Matt Kemp's leadoff triple and a walk to Andre Ethier before Jeff Kent doubled in both runners. Davis then dug in deep and struck out James Loney and Andruw Jones. Gary Bennett ended the fray with a grounder to third. At that juncture, Davis had already thrown 102 pitches. And although Melvin had said nothing, the crowd, his teammates and Davis figured he was through for the night. He was. Kent gave Davis a quick hug and some words of solace as the two wandered off the field. "He just said, 'Best of luck to you and God bless,' " Davis said. "It was emotional, very emotional. I tried to stay strong. I didn't want to come in crying or anything like that. It was nice to have support out there, not only from the fans, but from my teammates. Everybody's been real positive with me. I got it from Gary Bennett when I was up at bat. I got it from all the umpires. It just feels like baseball is not only team oriented, but a whole family within the game." The fact is that the D-backs will keep playing while Davis is in recovery and Melvin will have to make some adjustments in his starting rotation. Davis is now 14-12 for the D-backs in the season-plus since he was obtained from the Brewers in a three-for-three trade. Both as a presence and a baseball force, Davis will be missed. Doctors have told him that he has a 97 percent chance of beating this type of cancer, although they've also told him they are going to excise some lymph nodes from his neck just to make sure that the cancer hasn't spread. As a numbers guy, Davis said he's thankful for the high equation of the probability he'll recover, even though others might be wary. "My feelings are hard to describe, really," first baseman Conor Jackson said. "I've heard the whole 99 percent curable thing, but I don't care. Cancer is cancer and it's nothing to be taken lightly. For him to have the courage to go out and pitch two games for us and to go out and pitch like he did tonight, I can't say enough about him."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.