Welcome Home: Auburn alum and Alabama native Davis Daniel takes the mound for Trash Pandas
By Aaron Cheris
MADISON – For right-handed pitcher Davis Daniel, some time off the mound may have made all the difference in his first professional season.
In his first home start for the Rocket City Trash Pandas, Daniel pitched five solid innings against the Tennessee Smokies on July 24. Manager Jay Bell said Daniel was, “lights out,” allowing only one run on five hits with one walk and six strikeouts.
“To have six punch outs and one walk over the course of five innings was a really nice job. I was very pleased with him,” Bell said after the game. “Tonight he threw the ball really, really well. I was pleased with his performance.”
Daniel was promoted to the Trash Pandas on June 30 from High-A Tri-City where he was named High-A West June Pitcher of the Month after going 3-0 in four starts with a 1.29 ERA along with eight walks and 39 strikeouts over 28.0 innings for the Dust Devils.
Some of the success he’s had as of late can be attributed to rehabilitation time and the break provided by the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season.
As a draft-eligible junior in the Auburn Tigers rotation, Daniel was set to perform well in his 2019 collegiate season following an extended stint as the Saturday night starter in 2018. However, his time with the Tigers would be cut short two innings into his Opening Day start when an elbow injury ended his season and later required Tommy John surgery.
Following his surgery in April 2019, the Los Angeles Angels took Daniel in the seventh round of the June Draft. His rehab continued at the Angels minor league facility in Tempe.
After the initial shock of the injury, Daniel realized the complication might have worked in his favor.
“I think a big part of getting to where I am now was getting the extra year to get fully healthy. I think a lot of times now with rehab from Tommy John surgery, people get set back because they’re trying to rush,” Daniel said. “But I never had to rush knowing that I was going to have basically two whole years. Having the extra time to get fully healthy and throw was a big blessing for myself.”
Daniel attributes some of his growth and learning during the rehabilitation process to the time he spent with former Auburn teammates such as Chicago Cubs pitcher Keegan Thompson, Cleveland Indians prospect Tanner Burns, and Kansas City Royals prospect Elliott Anderson.
“I really learned a lot from them this off season. We kind of pushed each other to be better. Some of those guys are in the big leagues and Tanner Burns isn’t far from getting called up to Double-A, so we all pushed each other pretty well,” Daniel said.
When asked what advice he would give to young pitchers, Daniel’s biggest takeaway was to find something to do every day to get better.
“You’ve got to understand the nature of the game and the nature of your body. Realizing you can do something every day whether it’s working out, running, or simply putting on the TV and watching a game is important,” Daniel said. “I had coaches growing up around me that helped teach me that and instilled a love for this game at such a young age. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Daniel is excited that the road to the major leagues has brought him back to his home state where he can compete on the field in Rocket City.