By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Mar 24, 2015 at 1:02 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

You can argue Khris Davis’ world changed on July 31, 2014.

He had earned the starting left field job for the Milwaukee Brewers that spring, with the team moving former National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun to right field for him, only to see that four months out of Opening Day the team traded for a former Gold Glove left fielder in Gerardo Parra.

Was it an indictment on Davis? Or was it a move to protect the team in case Braun’s balky thumb acted up, or if Carlos Gomez’s legs and back began to wear? Maybe it was all of the above.

Whatever the case, Davis struggled mightily over the final two months of 2014, hitting just .216 over his final 45 games (35 starts) with five homeruns and 15 driven in.

His struggles weren’t singular. The entire team faltered down the stretch as the Brewers missed the playoffs.

It also raised questions as to whether Davis’ first turn as an every day player (he appeared in 56 games late in 2013) was just a growing pain, or indicative of larger shortcomings at the major league level.

But Davis, who turned 27 in December, feels 2015 can be different – especially coming out of spring training.

"You know what, looking back, when I took my AB’s in spring training, I didn’t find right field and I didn’t find my (swing) path that I needed to be on," he said when discussing his .238 batting average from March and April of last year.

"Once I found right field I became more in tune to myself. Early on, that slow start was just … just me trying to find that path. Hopefully next year I can find something that works early."

Indeed. After some small adjustments, Davis went on to hit .270 with 11 homers and 36 driven in May and June.

He managed that despite having to bring a hateful tweet to Major League Baseball’s attention in mid-May that resulted in an investigation by the league into the internet user.

Davis said it was one of the biggest lessons he took away from his first full year in the spotlight as a major leaguer.

"I heard some things that other players have been through – it is what it is," he said. "Everything is everything. But you don’t really see it until it hits you and it happens, like it happened to me with an incident on Twitter. It was just like, oh, dang … it’s crazy. Its indescribable really."

Davis is a thinker, but eccentric in some ways – at least a traditional baseball clubhouse setting. He isn’t shy when he talks about journaling or sharing dreams he has. And he’s aware that he’s playing a game for a living.

"I’m forever grateful," he said. "There wasn’t a day where I took (it) for granted. Every day I put this uniform on, like punching in. I’d rather definitely put on that uniform. Pretty grateful. I had a good time with all my teammates. They put up with me."

He laughed.

"Throwing the tennis ball around here and sh*t. It’s all about them, really."

One of them, second baseman Scooter Gennett, is a good friend and the two worked together in the offseason to strengthen Davis’ throwing arm with long toss sessions. And while Davis is looking to improve on his defense in 2015, he wasn’t about to go overboard on it.

"It’s an inside fight between myself because I feel like I don’t want to lose something by trying to gain something else," he said. "Me and Scooter playing long toss for arm strength. And then just do what I do hitting. Love that. I mean, I’m just going to get better. I’m not going to reinvent anything but just hopefully stay on the right path."

That path, for him, included some cage work but hitting in the open air on diamonds as well. He acknowledges that the raw numbers – 22 homers, 69 RBI in 501 at bats – were OK, but it wasn’t a complete effort in his book.

"I have to go through that place to get to where I’m going," he said. "It was a good year but, I wish I could change things and be in a different circumstance – created more of a different circumstance…"

He paused, and corrected himself.

"Or, f— the circumstance," he said. "The opportunity was there. But, I just didn’t get it done. I had more rough stretches than a good one."

Which makes his goals for 2015 pretty easy to set.

"Just get better and help this ball club win next year," he said. "Because I definitely know I can do that. I can change a game with my swing. That’s what I’m here to do and I know that."

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.