DUNEDIN, Fla. — Down the right field line at Dunedin Stadium, there’s a Blue Jays backdrop in front of which players address the media. Early in spring, players will often stand there, refreshed after an off-season of rest, and speak about their hopes for the coming season. If spring training is the time for optimism, then this is the place for it.
On Sunday morning, Devon Travis found himself there for the wrong reasons. Six days earlier, he had arrived home after playing against the Yankees and realized that his left knee was swollen. The next day it ‘locked up’ on him, and he hasn’t played since. An MRI revealed no structural damage — ‘a big relief’ — but Travis still doesn’t know exactly when he’ll play next.
In a brief, but emotional conversation with the media Sunday, Travis expressed frustration that knee issues have reappeared after a pain-free winter.
“It’s hard,” Travis said. “I’m sick of the same story going over and over and over again. It’s hard. It is what it is. You’ve got to find a way to keep going, but I’m sick of it, that’s for sure.”
At the same time, he’s making an effort to keep his own problems in perspective.
“People could complain about way bigger things than what I’m complaining about right now,” Travis said. “I can walk. I’m healthy. I live a good life. I’m a major-league baseball player. There’s people in this world with way bigger problems than what I have going on. So for me to sit here and feel bad for myself, I don’t. I never do. But it’s a lot.”
Travis’ history of knee problems includes operations on both sides. He dealt with a bone bruise in his right knee in 2016-17 and left knee and hamstring soreness sidelined him late last season. But he felt strong over the winter and arrived in camp hopeful of avoiding the disabled list for the second consecutive season.
“Knees aren’t fun for me,” Travis said. “Any time it’s a knee it’s definitely the most concerning thing for me … This is a tough one because I finally felt pretty good coming in and one week into spring training, here we are.”
Now, he’s getting ‘non-stop’ treatment on his left knee with the goal of improving every day. With three and a half weeks remaining before opening day, there’s plenty of time to get the at bats he needs, but if the inflammation lingers and Travis has to start the season on the injured list, the Blue Jays have in-house options available. In that scenario Lourdes Gurriel Jr. would likely start at second, with either Eric Sogard or Richard Urena on the roster as a utility player.
The Blue Jays are still a long way away from having to make that call, though. In the meantime, Travis will continue icing that knee in the hopes that the inflammation disappears. In a sense, that’s the easy part. More challenging is the mental grind of more time spent on the sidelines.
“I love this game,” Travis said. “This is not just baseball, but it’s my life. It’s how I take care of my family, it’s how I live the life that I live. I’m thankful for it and everything that comes with it. To wake up every day and call yourself a professional baseball player, that’s been a goal of mine since I was a kid. To say that I’m thinking about anything like (shutting it down) would be not even a real thought.
“But it’s frustrating. Five years of this now. It’s hard. But you’ve got to keep going. This is my dream, and I’m living my dream. I’ll find a way.”