TORONTO — The key to getting through a cortisone shot is to not look at it. You can close your eyes; you can hum to yourself; you can try to meditate and retreat to your happy place. But whatever your approach, do not look at the needle.
That was Devon Travis’ method when he had cortisone injected into his right knee this past weekend. He’s had injections before, mostly in his shoulder which is one of the less fun areas to have one because the doctor really has to drive it in deep. The knee’s not as bad; the needle only goes in maybe five or seven centimetres. The real trouble is when the cortisone starts shooting in. You feel every bit of it throbbing out of the needle as the pressure in your knee builds in response to the foreign substance surging in. It feels like your knee’s going to blow up.
"It sucks. It’s not fun," Travis said Tuesday as he prepared for the approaching ALCS with his Toronto Blue Jays. "It’s not a shot you want to get."
As if there is one. But here’s the thing about cortisone—once it’s in you, it’s your best friend. Travis, who played through a bone bruise in his right knee for nearly a month before the pain became too much to bear last weekend, has improved dramatically since the injection and says there’s no doubt in his mind he’ll be a part of Toronto’s roster when the ALCS begins this Friday in Cleveland.
"I’m feeling much better," Travis said. "I’ll be ready for Friday."
It was just a few days ago when Travis woke up before the second game of the ALDS in Texas and felt like someone was stabbing him in his knee. For whatever reason, the pain he’d been playing through for weeks increased dramatically overnight, and when he got to the ballpark and spoke to the Blue Jays training staff it quickly became apparent he wouldn’t be able to play.
But Travis’ teammates did him a solid by efficiently eliminating the Rangers in his absence, which has allowed the second baseman time to get a cortisone injection and start feeling better. On Tuesday, he took swings in the batting cages and did some light mobility work instead of going through his usual routine. Travis said he felt good enough to work out on the field with his teammates, but avoiding stress on the Rogers Centre turf and getting as much rest as possible was the smart thing to do.
"Thankfully, the guys have been able to get these wins—it gives everybody a few days to rest their bodies and get whatever they’ve got going on right," Travis said. "I was praying bad for that sweep right there. I’m sure all the guys were. These days are going to be great for everybody."
If the ALDS had stretched to a fourth game, it’s more than a little likely the Blue Jays would have been forced to remove Travis from their roster for the sake of a fresh body. Game 4 would have started around 12 hours after Game 3 ended and the Blue Jays would have been in dire need of reinforcements for both their bullpen and their bench. Fortunately for the Blue Jays, it didn’t come to that, as the move would have made Travis ineligible for the ALCS.
"I’m sure they were close to making that move and I completely understand. You can’t go with a short bench in the playoffs," Travis said. "That sweep was huge."
Travis says he expects to be able to get through the rest of the post-season before properly treating the bone bruise over the winter. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that’s the case as Travis was one of the club’s only consistently productive hitters during a nearly team-wide offensive slump in September. Travis hit .319/.347/.425 in 119 plate appearances from the beginning of September through the end of the season, and he played through the injury for most of that time.
"Honestly, the biggest thing is pain management. Hopefully [the cortisone] calms it down. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to get through this," Travis said. "This is the playoffs. Its something we’ve worked all year for. I’m going to get back in there and do my job."
Meanwhile, left-hander Francisco Liriano says he’s out of the woods with the concussion he suffered last weekend and that he expects to rejoin the Blue Jays when he’s eligible to for Game 2 of the ALCS on Saturday.
Liriano took a 102-mph Carlos Gomez liner off the back of the head late in Game 2 of the ALDS Friday. He was immediately removed from the game and later taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion. He experienced dizziness in the days after the incident and was sent home by the team before Game 3 of the series Sunday because he wasn’t feeling well.
But Liriano played catch Tuesday and worked out on an exercise bike, saying he didn’t feel any symptoms during or after the work out. Per MLB rules, he has to sit out for seven days due to the concussion, but as of now he feels that’s all the time he’ll need.
"It feels good. Everything’s back to normal. I don’t feel anything weird," Liriano said. "I had a little dizziness the first couple days but now everything’s gone. I feel back to normal now. No head aches, no dizziness, no nothing."
If this is in fact the end of any lingering effects for Liriano, it’s fairly remarkable. The ball caught him flush in the area behind his right ear and hit him so hard it bounced all the way into centre field.
"It got me pretty good," Liriano said. "It could’ve been a lot worse. Thankfully it wasn’t."
Liriano will throw a bullpen in the coming days, which will be the true test of whether he’s ready to rejoin the team or not. Assuming he is, Liriano says he doesn’t expect to experience any trepidation on the mound after being caught in the head by a liner for the first time in his 16 years as a professional.
"I think negative thoughts don’t help," Liriano said. "I’m just going to go out there and try to get some people out. Whatever happens, happens. I don’t like to think negatively."