MESA, Ariz. — Wade Davis was a promising starting pitcher when he made his major league debut for Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays almost eight years ago. Then he was a reliever, and then a starter again and then a reliever.

Now he gets the ball from Maddon once again – only this time as the closer for the Chicago Cubs.

Much has changed for Davis over the years, and not much at the same time.

“The only way he’s changed is he is a relief pitcher,” a chuckling Maddon said. “He was a starter when I first met him. He’s the same cat. He’s very deliberate in his methods and even conversationally.”

That’s just fine with Maddon, who is hoping for more of the same from Davis after a dominant run with Kansas City. While the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees spent big money on closers over the winter, the World Series champions acquired Davis in a trade with the Royals for outfielder Jorge Soler.

So far, the transition looks like one of Davis’ relief appearances: smooth and efficient.

“It’s been pretty easy,” said Davis, who will make $10 million this season in the final year of his contract. “Everybody’s been really easy to get along with and get to know and the staff has been really good, so it’s been easy to get acclimated to all the stuff.”

Davis, a third-round pick in the 2004 draft, was a starter for his first three seasons in Tampa Bay. The Rays used him as a reliever in 2012, and he went 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA in 54 appearances.

But that was his final year with the Rays, who traded the 6-foot-5 right-hander to Kansas City. The Royals put Davis back in the rotation before returning him to the bullpen late in the 2013 season.

Smart move.

Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland combined for an overwhelming relief presence as Kansas City made consecutive World Series appearances, winning it all with Davis on the mound in 2015. Davis went 19-4 with 47 saves and 1.18 ERA over his final three seasons with the Royals.

 The Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to an $11.85 million, two-year contract that includes a club option for 2019. The deal announced Friday supersedes a $5.5 million, one-year agreement from earlier this month.

Strop went 2-2 with a 2.85 ERA in 54 appearances last year.

BRAVES: Former Kansas City Chief defensive back Sanders Commings agreed to a minor-league deal.

An outfielder who hasn’t played baseball since high school in Georgia, Commings faces long odds to become one of the rare players to make it to both the NFL and Major League Baseball.

He was drafted out of high school by the Diamondbacks but chose to play college football at Georgia.

Commings was a fifth-round pick by Kansas City in the 2013 NFL draft. He was released after two injury plagued seasons with the Chiefs.

INDIANS: Outfielder Michael Brantley took regular batting practice for the first time in training camp this year, a significant step in his latest comeback from a shoulder injury.

Brantley had been limited to soft-toss workouts, but was able to take full cuts against normal pitches Friday.

The 29-year-old played in just 11 games last season as he was unable to make a full recovery following offseason surgery on his right shoulder. He had another operation in August to relieve tendinitis in his biceps.

RED SOX: Michael Conforto and Gavin Cecchini homered for the Mets, and Seth Lugo pitched two scoreless innings in New York’s 3-2 victory over Boston at Fort Myers, Florida.

Red Sox starter Henry Owens allowed two runs and three hits in two innings. Hanley Ramirez hit a leadoff double in the seventh for Boston’s first hit and scored on Brian Bogusevic’s two-run homer with one out.

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