BALTIMORE — It was nearly four hours before game time and the clubhouse of the Baltimore Orioles was a busy place, even a few hours following a night game before a late afternoon contest.
Pitcher Tommy Hunter and coach Wayne Kirby were engaged in a game of pool while Manny Machado, the fine young third baseman, was playing table tennis.
Sitting in front of his locker with a bat in his hands was Chris Davis, 27, the Longview High School graduate whose dressing stall is dead center in the row of cubicles on one side of the large clubhouse.
And that is appropriate since Davis, a left-handed hitting first baseman, has been pretty much in the center of things for the heavy-hitting Orioles this season.
"He swings a big bat. He is providing protection for the first four batters in the lineup," said J.J. Hardy, the Baltimore shortstop and resident table tennis champion in the clubhouse.
In games through Sunday, Davis is hitting .357 with 20 homers and 52 RBI. He also has 19 doubles, a .440 on-base average and a slugging mark of .754. He ranked among the Major League leaders in all of those categories.
"It is just ridiculous," Hardy said. "Everyone gets hot at some point (in a long season). It is just how long your funk is (during a slump). I don't see him staying in a funk too long."
Davis, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers, was the American League player of the Month for April when he hit .348 with eight doubles, nine homers, 28 RBI, 19 runs and 16 walks in 27 games.
He also became just the fourth player in history to hit homers in the first four games of the season, joining Willie Mays (1971), Mark McGwire (1998) and Nelson Cruz (2011).
Davis had 16 RBIs in the first four games to set a big league mark, besting a high of 12 that had been set several times.
But the Navarro College product, who made his big league debut with Texas in 2008, has shown no signs of slowing down. In a 10-game stretch through Saturday he hit .459 with five homers in 37 at bats. He had four hits in four at bats, including two homers, in a win over Washington on May 29.
"He's just been consistent," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter, the former Texas skipper, told reporters after that game. "And when people are consistent in the way they live their life, they have a chance to be consistent in baseball and sports, too. He's in a good place in a lot of ways."
Those numbers would suggest Davis would be in line for his first All-Star game appearance at the home of the Mets on July 16 in New York.
"It would mean a lot. It is something you dream about as a kid," said Davis, sitting in front of his locker prior to facing Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. "It is nice reward. It is a nice pat on the back."
Davis normally heads home to Texas during the All-Star break but he would gladly change those plans if he is chosen to take part in the All-Star Classic.
He has built on a strong end to the 2012 season, when he shared American League player of the week honors the last week of the year with Verlander.
Davis, traded to the Orioles in 2011 by Texas, hit .270 with 33 homers and 85 RBI in his first full season with Baltimore last year.
"It was more of a learning experience for me," Davis said of last season, his first as an everyday player. "It was a pretty good chunk of time in between (the end of last season). I learned about myself and my swing at the end of the season. I was able to implement some things (this year) and run with it."
But in spring training a lot of his energy was focused on becoming the everyday first baseman for Baltimore, after he played some first and outfield in 2012.
"It takes a little weight off my shoulders," Davis said of being at first base every day. "This year it has been a little easier to stay with my routine. Last year there were times when I had to get away from my (hitting) routine since I was taking fly balls in the outfielder or working at first base" before games.
"It has been huge for me to be at the same position every day," added Davis, as a Tim McGraw song echoed through the clubhouse.
Davis also benefits from a lineup that includes Hardy, Machado, center fielder Adam Jones, catcher Matt Weiters and right fielder Nick Markakis.
"Pitchers can't take off against anyone," Davis said.
The Orioles surprised a lot of people when they made their first post-season appearance in 15 years in 2012. And this year they have been consistent in the tough American League East.
"We didn't listen to our critics this year and we won't this year," Davis said.
Editor's note: David Driver is a free-lance writer in Maryland has covered the Orioles for more than 20 years. He can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com