Rajai Davis has shown signs of improvement since the beginning of the season. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Rajai Davis’ second-half production gives the A’s a legitimate leadoff threat

OAKLAND — Center fielder Rajai Davis’ second stint with the Oakland Athletics did not start well.

Back on the team he played for from 2008-2010, Davis batted .214 in April. As manager Bob Melvin limited his at-bats against righties, he continued to struggle, hitting .191 in May.

But Davis adjusted to his part-time role after the All-Star break. He’s batting .339 in the second half with three home runs and eight stolen bases. He’ll lead off for Oakland on Thursday night against southpaw Wade Miley.

“It was tough for him to get on a role for a guy who’s used to consistent at-bats,” Melvin said. “Now he’s acclimated and he understands the role and can prepare for it.”

When Davis played in Oakland earlier in his career, he stole 116 bases – an average of about 39 per season. While the 36-year-old might not have the explosiveness he possessed in 2010, he ranks fourth in the American League in steals this year.

His base running instincts and ability to hit left-handers make him an asset for a last-place team searching for consistency at the plate.

“You’re seeing what [Davis] can do,” Melvin said. “[He’s] the one guy who really knows how to lead off and impact a game with his legs.”

INJURY UPDATES:

— Catcher Josh Phegley, who has missed time with a left oblique strain, performed catching and hitting drills on Thursday. He’s expected to go on a rehab assignment sometime next week.

— Outfielder Jake Smolinski hasn’t played this season due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. However, Melvin said he could play as a designated hitter on a rehab assignment in the next couple of weeks.

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