Manager Gibbons sees potential in Blue Jays second baseman Travis

Gibbons sees high potential in Travis

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons believes Devon Travis has the tools to be a one of the best hitters in baseball.

He just has to stay healthy.

The 25-year-old second baseman is expected to be ready for Opening Day on April 3 in Baltimore after undergoing surgery for the third time in two years.

“When we first traded for him I thought he was going to be strictly a line drives guy but he hits home runs a long way and he’ll drive in some runs,” Gibbons said Saturday after the team’s first full-squad spring training workout. “He’ll be a high average guy, he can do a lot of things.

“If he stays healthy I think he’s got a chance to be one of the better hitters in baseball, I really do.”

Travis had his latest surgery in November to remove a small flap of cartilage that was caught in his right knee joint. He also had two separate left shoulder surgeries in 2015 â€” one in July to determine the cause of his ongoing issues and the other at the end of September to remove a cyst — and didn’t make his 2016 debut until the end of May. 

The knee problems began during Game 1 of the 2016 American League Division Series against Texas, causing him to sit out the rest of the series. He didn’t return to action until Game 1 of the AL Championship Series in Cleveland, where he aggravated the knee and left after two at-bats.

An MRI revealed a bone bruise, ending his season.

Travis, who participated in a limited workout on Saturday, doesn’t know if the bruise is entirely healed. He said he “feels good” though.

“There’s still certain things I haven’t done, but I’m not in pain,” he said. “I feel like I can move, I feel like I can do everything that they put me up to do.”

Travis also missed time in 2016 with a right knuckle injury in August and a shoulder injury sustained in a brawl with the New York Yankees at the end of September. He finished the year with a .300 batting average through 101 games.

He hit 11 homers and 28 doubles while driving in 50 runs, showing his manager flashes of potential along the way. 

“For a young kid he’s got such a great approach, uses the whole field, and he’s strong, it’s a compact body,” Gibbons said. “He’s got a chance to be really, really good.”

When told of those flattering comments, Travis seemed taken by surprise. He was quick to shift the credit to his teammates.

“That’s special. That’s so cool to hear,” Travis said with a smile. “To me it doesn’t really make sense. I just come to the park every day and I try to get better. I try to learn from these guys. Without guys like (Jose) Bautista and (Josh) Donaldson, Eddie (Edwin Encarnacion), Tulo (Troy Tulowitzki), things that they’ve taught me over these years, I feel like I wouldn’t be half the hitter I am now.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot of work to do. But hearing that come from someone like Gibby who’s seen so many hitters come through here, that’s real special to me.”

General manager Ross Atkins said he was optimistic Travis will be in the Opening Day lineup, but the team will be monitoring him closely this spring to ensure he’s progressing as expected.

“We feel good about him helping our team in a significant way this year,” Atkins said. “Having said that we want to make sure we’re putting him in the best position to do that over the course of 162 (games).”

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press