One of my favourites, Devon Travis, turns 32 today.
Travis came to the Blue Jays in trade from the Tigers on November 13, 2014, with Anthony Gose going to Detroit.
Travis was #84 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list. Gose had been a disappointment for us. He had a ton of speed, but he hit .247/.315/.363 with 34 stolen bases in 202 games in parts of three seasons.
In 2015, Travis came in spring training a long shot to make the team. The team felt that he could use some time in Triple-A. But, to almost no one’s surprise, Maicer Izturis got hurt, and Travis was our second basemen on opening day.
His season started great. He hit .325/.393/.624 in April, getting the AL Rookie of the Month award. But, in mid-May, Devon went on the DL with a shoulder injury. He was back playing in late June, playing 26 games, hitting .357/.402/.488 before reinjuring the shoulder.
He played 62 games and hit .304/.361/.498 with 8 home runs, but he missed out on being part of the Blue Jays’ first time in the playoffs in 22 years.
The shoulder issue carried over to 2016, and in late April, he started a rehab assignment in the minors. Finally, he came up to the Blue Jays in late May and played out the rest of the season. In 101 games, he hit .300/.332/.454 with 11 home runs. He played in the playoffs this time, getting 1 hit in 12 at-bats. But he was battling a bone bruise.
Devon started the 2017 season in the lineup. He had a terrible April, hitting just .130/.193/.195. May went much better, hitting .364/.373/.646, But once again, there was an injury. It was first called a bone bruise on his knee (again), but it was worse than that, and he had surgery missing the rest of the season.
Travis got into a career-high 103 games in 2018. But, unfortunately, he had career lows with the bat, hitting just .232/.275/.381. And his defense was about as good as his bat. He finally made it through a season without going on the DL, but he was not 100% healthy.
In the spring of 2019, Travis had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. He missed the season. After the season, he was outrighted off the Jays’ roster and elected to become a free agent.
Travis was a favourite of mine. I got a jersey with his name early (sorry, Travis, that seems to be a bad omen). He was the kind of guy who could fall out of bed and hit .300 (if he didn’t break something in the fall). He had that tremendous line-drive swing. His defense wasn’t Gold Glove level, but he was solid and turned a nice quick double play. Sometimes I wonder if the Jays rushed him back to the lineup. I did have moments of not being happy with our training staff during those years.
But, the injuries cost him both on the offensive and defensive side.
“What could have been” is a line in the bio of many players. Second base is the wrong position for injury-prone players. It is better than it once was. Base runners targeted the middle infielder. Sliding into the base was secondary before they made some rule changes. But second basemen are facing away from the runner when they take the throw from short or third. Shortstops can get hurt, too (see Tony Fernandez), but they generally look in the direction the base runner is coming from and can brace themselves or avoid the runner. Second basemen are defenseless.
Travis is working as a minor league instructor for the Braves now.
Happy birthday, Travis. I hope it is a good one and finds you healthy and happy.