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Reds' Davis set for debut vs. Phillies

CINCINNATI -- To further indoctrinate himself into Cincinnati culture, Rookie Davis visited Skyline Chili for the first time this week. On Thursday afternoon, the rookie right-hander is expected to make his first major-league start against the Philadelphia Phillies at Great American Ball Park.

Davis, 23, pitched through a groin issue last season with Double-A Pensacola, where he posted a 2.94 ERA while going 10-3 in 19 starts. He struggled at Triple-A, albeit a limited sample size of only five appearances. But, he showed enough in spring training, including a significant spike in velocity, to keep him out front in a hotly contested battle for the final two spots in the rotation.

"He had a couple things he had to battle through with his leg and groin, which affected his ability to really drive the ball to the plate," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We've seen a big jump in velocity, from a guy who was trying to manage an 88 to 92 mph fastball to pitching mostly with a 92 to 96 this spring."

Davis also incorporated a slider into his repertoire, which includes a good curveball and changeup.

"He's aggressive, and he throws strikes," Price said. "He has good fastball command. We anticipate he will hold his own here."

Davis made four starts in spring training, striking out 17 and walking three in 15 2/3 innings. He gave up seven earned runs on 16 hits.

On Thursday, Davis will be opposed by Phillies veteran right-hander Clay Buchholz, who at the ripe age of 32 is looking to rebound from a 10-loss season in which he had a 4.78 ERA in 37 appearances (21 starts) for the Boston Red Sox.

"He relies on command and control," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "When he mixes pitches and changes speeds, that's when he's effective. When he's got command of those pitches, he can be as effective as (Jeremy) Hellickson."

Hellickson lowered his ERA from the previous two seasons to 3.71 in 2016. Mackanin hopes for a similar turnaround from Buchholz, who at one point was among the rising young arms in the game.

Buchholz was acquired by the Phillies in December in exchange for second baseman Josh Tobias. He struggled a bit with his command during spring training, with 10 walks and 16 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings.

Thursday is the rubber game in this season-opening series, but it's also an important day for the Reds, with catcher Devin Mesoraco expected to make his first rehab appearance for Double-A Pensacola that evening. He plans to catch six innings.

Mesoraco is coming back from hip surgery that, coupled with a shoulder injury, limited him to 16 games last season. There's a loose schedule in place for Mesoraco to increase his workload gradually from six innings behind the plate to eventually back-to-back seven-inning stints.

Manager Bryan Price said Mesoraco will not be activated until he can go nine innings back-to-back days. Barring any setbacks, Price doesn't expect Mesoraco's rehab to extend beyond the required 20 days.

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