Blue Jays Notebook: Cautious Travis approach extending past spring

Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis (29) throws out Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) at first base. (Nathan Denette/CP)

DUNEDIN, Fla. – The cautious approach that the Toronto Blue Jays have taken with Devon Travis’s spring training workload will extend into the regular season.

Travis continues to progress well from June surgery on his right knee, both in the field and at the plate, but Sunday was just his tenth game of the spring. The thinking: Don’t overdo it during Grapefruit League action, because the Blue Jays need Travis for the long haul.

Along those same lines, the Blue Jays will still monitor Travis’s workload carefully once the regular season begins. For example, they could play him two or three days in a row before giving him a day off.

“That’s going to happen,” manager John Gibbons said. “Even if he’s going good and his legs feel all right, that’s something we need to do, and hopefully that gets him through a full season. Hopefully we’re in the thing late and you can ride him a little harder. That is definitely the plan.”

The Blue Jays plan to carry an extra infielder on their roster this season partly because of the injuries that Travis and Troy Tulowitzki have dealt with in recent years. Aledmys Diaz will start the season at short in place of Tulowitzki, and the Blue Jays’ bench will likely include Yangervis Solarte plus a second infielder.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Danny Espinosa, a talented defensive player who signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays Saturday, has a chance to break camp with the team.

“He’s a talented guy,” Gibbons said, “and he’s got a track record in the big-leagues. That never hurts.”

Gift Ngoepe, also a defence-first player, would be another option for a backup infield role, and it’s also possible that the Blue Jays could explore further moves later in spring when roster crunches on other teams make talented infielders available.

Meanwhile, Randal Grichuk will start swinging a bat in the batting cage Sunday as he recovers from the ribcage soreness that has sidelined him since March 9. If that goes well, he’ll take batting practice Sunday and remain on track for opening day.

“The season’s not too far off, we’ve got to be smart about it,” Gibbons said. “[Sunday] will be a big day for him, because swinging the bat’s the big issue.”

In the scenario that Grichuk needs to start the season on the disabled list, the Blue Jays believe Teoscar Hernandez represents a big-league-ready alternative.

“Shoot, I love the way he’s playing,” Gibbons said of Hernandez. “He’s talented.”

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Alomar’s advice

Over the years, Cavan Biggio has learned plenty of lessons from one Hall of Fame second baseman: His father, Craig Biggio. After the Blue Jays selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, Cavan Biggio got some advice from another second baseman with a plaque in Cooperstown: Roberto Alomar.

“Use your third eye, which is the inside part of your ankle, and that third eye always has to see your target where you’re throwing,” Biggio said. “That made a lot of sense to me. Just working on your footwork and making sure your third eye can see your target.”

The 22-year-old Biggio hit .233/.342/.363 with the Class A Dunedin Blue Jays last year as the club’s primary second baseman. A left-handed hitter, he stole 11 bases and hit 11 home runs in his first full season as a professional.

While Biggio plays the same position as his father, Kacy Clemens, the son of Roger, plays first base. Clemens, an eighth-round pick in 2017, hit .274/.379/.413 for the Vancouver Canadians last year. Like Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., he’s accustomed to high expectations because of his father’s career.

“Seven-time Cy Young award winner,” Clemens said. “If I could have half the career that he had, then I’m doing pretty good.”

“I guess we have a target on our back, so to speak,” Clemens continued. “Whether that’s good or bad, that’s for you guys to decide. I think it’s a commonality between all of us, we all kind of feel the same way about it. We’re here to make our own trail, make our own path to the big leagues and set our own legacy for ourselves.”

Reps for Oh

Seung-hwan Oh has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game due to visa issues, but manager John Gibbons expects he’ll be ready to break camp with the team as long as he can get into a couple of spring games.

“Yeah, I would hope so, but we’ll see,” Gibbons said recently.

Garcia works with Martin

Jaime Garcia had heard plenty of praise for Russell Martin before signing with the Blue Jays, and he’s pleasantly surprised by how well he has clicked with the veteran catcher.

“He’s awesome,” Garcia said of Martin. “I told him first thing when I came over here I’ve always been a fan of him … I had a really good catcher behind me with the Cardinals (Yadier Molina), but I was wanting to pitch to [Martin]. The way he does things, moves, calls the game, I’ve always been a fan of him. To have him behind [the plate] was what I expected or a little bit better.”

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