DUNEDIN, Fla. – Devon Travis says it’d be an understatement to call his last year an emotional roller coaster.
He broke camp with the Toronto Blue Jays and earned AL rookie of the month honours in April, only to hit the disabled list in May and remain sidelined with shoulder problems for most of the season while his team surged to an AL East title.
Now, nearly four months after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder, the 25-year-old second baseman feels his range of motion expanding. Doctors are seeing progress. If it continues, Travis will resume baseball activities with an eye toward returning to the big leagues.
“Man, I just want to play,” he said Monday. “You can put me anywhere you put me. I just want to get back on the field and enjoy the game that I love.”
Travis says his range of motion has improved considerably, and may even be better than it was pre-injury. Now it’s about building strength to go along with that motion. Thanks to the physical therapy he’s doing with the Blue Jays, he's optimistic. If anything, he’ll have to remind himself to ease up once he starts swinging.
“Early on I probably should remember that I’m still going through it,” Travis said. “Just the first day I swing, they’ll probably tell me to go 25 per cent and I’ll probably go 100. I have to learn to scale back because I’m always trying to push.”
His eagerness to return to the field contributed to a difficult 2015 season that saw him hit the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation twice. He was initially sidelined from May 17 to June 26 and he returned to the DL from July 31 through the end of the season.
Though he underwent exploratory surgery Sept. 23, nothing significant was discovered. Two months later, Travis had a procedure where Dr. David Altchek inserted screws in his shoulder to stabilize an extra bone. Gibbons says Dr. Altchek re-examined the shoulder in recent days and came away impressed.
“It was a big procedure,” manager John Gibbons said. "That takes time to heal. But that’s going to be behind him once he heals up and he’s ready to play again I wouldn’t expect that to be an issue ever again.”
This time, Travis has resolved to allow his body the time it needs to heal.
“I like to rush stuff and this isn’t something I should rush,” he said. "It’s serious surgery and I need to continue to remind myself that it’s a process.”
Opening day isn’t a realistic target for Travis, but he does have a target return date in mind. He’s just keeping it to himself for now.
“I don’t want to set anything and then feel like I’m letting myself down," he said. "I have a time where I want to be back.”
Really, there’s no telling when Travis will return. The Blue Jays suggested during the offseason that May would be possible. Now that'd be an achievement considering that Travis must resume baseball activities and prove himself in rehab games before the Blue Jays can even contemplate adding him to their roster.
In the meantime, the Blue Jays have Ryan Goins starting at second base, and providing excellent defence. Travis doesn’t have the same defensive ability as Goins, but he posted an .859 OPS in 2015 while hitting eight home runs.
Eventually the Blue Jays may face the question of who starts at second. For now, Travis just wants to play.
“I’ll go through whatever process they put me through,” he said. "If I have to prove myself again that’ll be fun for me too. Wherever they put me I’m good.”