TORONTO – With their bullpen “on fumes,” the Blue Jays optioned struggling second baseman Devon Travis to triple-A Buffalo Sunday and recalled right-handed reliever Carlos Ramirez to take his place on the roster.
When healthy, Travis has been a productive bat for the Blue Jays, with a lifetime .282/.322/.447 batting line over four seasons, but the 27-year-old got off to a slow start at the plate this year, batting .148/.212/.246 with 18 strikeouts in 66 plate appearances.
The Blue Jays would have preferred to allow Travis to emerge from his slump at the MLB level, the way he did a year ago, when he hit 16 doubles in May. However, a heavily-taxed bullpen required support and Travis has options remaining.
"We definitely didn’t want to do it," manager John Gibbons said. "We’re strapped in the ‘pen right now. Those guys are pitching a lot."
"We don’t think it’ll be long-term by any means," Gibbons added. "And it’s not going to hurt him to go down there and get his bat going, too."
Beyond the increase in strikeout rate, Travis was also hitting fewer line drives (16.3 per cent, down from 26.4 per cent last year) and more ground balls (62.8 per cent, up from 37.2 per cent).
Gibbons broke the news to Travis, explaining that his minor-league stint could be a short one.
"Naturally he’s disappointed," Gibbons said, "but there’s not a more professional guy in that clubhouse. He understood the reasoning."
Travis will now look to rebound offensively at triple-A, where he’s expected to DH at times and play second base. At the MLB level the Blue Jays will replace Travis with Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who hit his first MLB home run Saturday.
Once Josh Donaldson returns to the Blue Jays’ active roster, Yangervis Solarte could also see time at second. Until then, the Blue Jays have no backup infielder with Solarte, Gurriel and Aledmys Diaz slated for everyday playing time. If necessary, though, Russell Martin could play second or third base and Luke Maile could catch.
Ramirez, meanwhile, becomes the eighth member of a Blue Jays bullpen that has been taxed heavily in recent days. The converted outfielder was already on the club’s 40-man roster after debuting out of the Toronto bullpen last year.
He had an abbreviated spring due to an elbow issue and started the season slowly at triple-A with four runs and six walks allowed in six innings for the Bisons.
"He hadn’t hit his stride yet," Gibbons said. "But, he had a hell of a year for us last year and looked good in September, so we’ll see."
Ramirez posted a 2.70 ERA with 14 strikeouts and three walks and just six hits allowed in 16.2 innings out of the big-league bullpen last year. He didn’t allow an earned run in any of his 25 minor-league games last season.