Despite battling loneliness and being in Florida, the Blue Jays' rookie second baseman Devon Travis never took the four-hour trip home from Dunedin during his injury rehab last year. He didn't want comfort--he just wanted to work as hard as he could to re-join his teammates up in Toronto.
"I was so focused on trying to get better that the only day I took off was Sunday. It would have messed up my whole week if I drove home."
As his Blue Jays teammates were playing their minds off in August, climbing up the American League East standings, Travis was trying to climb out of a hole he fell into after he was placed on the disabled list at the end of July. By mid-August there was a week where he couldn’t even bear to watch the Blue Jays play on television because he couldn’t stop envisioning himself out there on the field.
"It’s real easy to finish rehab at one o’clock and go home and sit there and look at the walls and sit in a dark room feeling bad for yourself," Travis told Bluebird Banter, referring to the small hotel room near the Bobby Mattick Training Center he resided in for two months. "It was mentally as tough as it was physically."
"I was there with Saunders for a little bit so that made it better. It is lonely, man. You’re there by yourself and nobody’s there except for the GCL team. You have to have a lot of self-motivation, discipline, you have to find something to keep your mind going."
Travis returned to Bobby Mattick this spring to continue his rehab in extended spring training before a handful of games with the Dunedin Blue Jays. He was understandably ecstatic to leave the warmth of Florida to join the triple-A Bisons and to play in a park that’s just 90 minutes away from Toronto’s Rogers Centre. He missed spring training so this was his chance to get as close to facing major league pitching as possible.
"This is my chance to find a routine to go about things and see how my body reacts to it so by the time I get back up there it is crisp and ready."
While he was getting a lot of at bats in extended spring training (he was able to hit leadoff in every inning), playing in real games up in Buffalo allow him to get back in a good flow. He’s establishing the pre- and post-game workout routine he will use when he returns to Toronto. Outside of trying to regain his timing at the plate, he is working on his defense, aiming to improve on reading balls off the bat in order to pick up the ball sooner.
That sort of work will come with time, Travis believes.
How much time would Travis give himself if he were the Blue Jays’ general manager?
"I… could not tell you," he said chuckling, "I have no idea what it’s like to be a general manager. I haven’t played in a long time so I understand I need my at bats. It’s a tough game. All I know is whenever they call me up, I’ll be ready."
He says that he is not focused at all on the chatter among fans and the media that his return can spark the Blue Jays’ underperforming offense. He has strengthened his mental game through his stint in rehab last season so he knows that he should not focus on things out of his control.
"When I get back up there my job is just to get up there and have good at bats, put the ball in play, play hard, bring energy, whatever I can do to help the team win. By no means do I consider myself a saviour or am I letting that get to my head. Those guys on the team have a heck of a better track record than me and my job is just to do my best to get on base."
So does he care where he bats when he returns to Toronto?
"No. Not a care in the world, man, I just want to play."