• Still no timetable for Travis return
• Donaldson closing in on spring debut
• Lefty reliever Mayza impressing early
DUNEDIN, Fla. – With a month remaining before opening day, Devon Travis has time on his side, but the Toronto Blue Jays aren’t simply going to assume that he’ll be ready when the season begins April 3 in Baltimore.
Travis has been taking regular batting practice and participating in fielding drills with some limitations as he looks to recover from a nagging bone bruise to his right knee suffered late in the 2016 season.
“Everything’s going good,” Travis said. “I’m just taking it day by day. Swinging feels great and moving around’s starting to feel better and better.”
Still, there’s no timeline for his spring debut just yet. While he’s becoming increasingly eager to play, he expects patience will pay off long-term.
“Every single day that goes by, I miss being out there more and more,” Travis said. “I’m champing at the bit more and more. [Team doctors and trainers are] letting me know that I have to stay patient and I have to heal the right way.”
Because there’s no precise sense of when Travis will be ready, the Blue Jays are also keeping a close eye on their middle-infield alternatives.
“It’d be good to know what these guys can do,” manager John Gibbons said. “We know all about [Darwin] Barney and [Ryan] Goins. Guys like [Jake] Elmore and [Gregorio] Petit, it’s going to help us to get to know them a little better. Hopefully Devon’s ready, but we can’t guarantee that.”
There’s no denying Travis’s potential impact, as he has a .301 batting average with a .342 on-base percentage and 19 home runs in 163 career games at the MLB level.
“He’s the kind of player where if he plays every day, he could be one of the better players in baseball,” Gibbons said. “He can really hit. I think he’s better defensively than he was given credit for when we first got him. But he can hit and I think he’s going to hit for some power someday.”
Travis also underwent off-season surgery to remove a small flap of cartilage that was caught in his right knee joint.
PROGRESS FOR DONALDSON: Josh Donaldson took ground balls and hit in the batting cage Wednesday, an indication that his right calf strain continues to heal as well as the Blue Jays hoped. An outdoor batting practice session Tuesday left an impression on Gibbons.
“To be honest with you, it looked like he hadn’t been out of action at all,” Gibbons said. “Guys that can hit, that’s kind of the way it goes sometimes. He felt good. That was a big day for him.”
The Blue Jays, who were planning to ease Donaldson into spring games regardless, don’t have a target date for the third baseman’s return. Team medical staff will determine when he gets the go-ahead to make his Grapefruit League debut. With lots of time remaining before the regular season, there’s no point in rushing back.
“He’s smarter than that,” Gibbons said. “I might not be, but he is.”
MAYZA IMPRESSING: Left-handed reliever Tim Mayza has impressed the Blue Jays early on this spring, striking out four hitters in two innings thanks in part to a fastball that’s often clocked faster than 95 mph.
“Everybody thinks he’s got a chance to be really, really good,” Gibbons said.
Mayza spent most of the season at Class A Dunedin, posting a 1.66 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 48.2 innings, before struggling in 14 games at double-A.
“Every team in baseball’s looking for those left-handed relievers,” Gibbons said. “[Brett] Cecil’s gone now, and you’re always looking for those guys. He could come quick.”
Left-hander Ryan Borucki, who was recently added to the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster, has also impressed this spring.
NOTES: At this point, Jose Bautista projects as the Blue Jays’ No. 3 hitter. “I think that’s where he fits best and that’s where he wants to hit,” Gibbons said. The Blue Jays wouldn’t rule out a return to the leadoff spot for Bautista, but “that’s really not who he is”… Lourdes Gurriel Jr. tweaked his hamstring in the Blue Jays’ spring opener, but he’s expected to return to games by early next week. The Blue Jays expect the 23-year-old to open the season playing shortstop for Class A Dunedin.