Montoyo’s faith in Blue Jays’ Travis unfazed despite latest injury

Devon Travis reveals how he injured his knee and while frustrated he's happy the nagging issue has been identified and corrected. Charlie Montoyo says he wont rush Travis back but was counting on him and while disappointed, still believes in him.

DUNEDIN, Fla. — It is an old baseball adage that the game doesn’t wait for anybody.

But Charlie Montoyo will wait for Devon Travis, who is out for four to six weeks after undergoing surgery to clean up a meniscus tear in his left knee. He will wait because when healthy he is the best – the only, really – option at lead-off hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I was counting on him because I’ve seen him do really good before," said Montoyo, the Blue Jays manager. "I don’t want him to get back not having enough at bats. Because I believe in Travis, and I think he’s going to be good and hit again … but he’s going to need at bats. Whenever he’s ready, it will be because he’s ready to hit in the Big Leagues.

"I was counting on him this year. He’s a great teammate and human being. A couple of years ago he was really good, and that’s what I’m hoping for again. I know he’s upset, but we’re going to let him have a chance to get healthy, get his at bats and come again when he’s ready to compete."

Travis’ knee locked up on him as he was getting out of his car following a game against the New York Yankees at Dunedin Stadium on March 3. "It was a little bit sore before but nothing to complain about. I was rehabbing it all off-season but then it sparked up a bit. Like I said, we got it fixed, so it’s all good."

Travis addressed the media Sunday after his announcement, seeming almost embarrassed at times but also buoyant, at least on the surface. Baseball players must by nature be eternal optimists – it’s that whole fail two out of three times and you’re still an All-Star thing – but Travis is being tested like few others. Publicly, at least, he was upbeat.

"I’m fixed now," he said with a shrug. "I should be able to smile about that.

"Probably the best part is knowing what I needed to get done, getting it done and now moving forward," he said. "Any surgery sucks, but this is probably the best it can be."

There is no fortuitous time for an injury but, my goodness, Travis has shown a miserable sense of timing, going back to the 2016 American League playoffs when he suffered a bone bruise in the first game of the Division Series, then was dropped from the roster in the Championship Series after aggravating the injury in the fifth inning of Game 1.

Among Travis’ injuries was a nagging shoulder condition in his 2015 rookie season that was later diagnosed as os acromiale —
essentially, the presence of an extra bone. Travis cobbled together a 103-game season in 2018 … and now this, at a time when Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., is being force-fed at second base, Cavan Biggio is being shuttled around from second to the outfield and Bo Bichette is just about the hottest thing out there even with questions about whether he will ultimately move to second base.

Travis is running out of runway. His saving grace is the manager’s contention that Travis is the best candidate to lead-off for the Blue Jays, at least until Bichette arrives next season. That, plus he has a first-year manager who has his back and isn’t afraid to say so. He also is the type of clubhouse citizen that the Blue Jays hope becomes a regular feature of this new culture, so much so that there has been at least limited conversation about whether the club’s thin outfield depth organizationally might ultimately be served by moving Travis into left field.

There is a lot going on right now with this organization’s middle infielders, as president and chief executive officer Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins have instructed player development director Gil Kim and his staff to quietly begin establishing which minor league middle infielders might be more valuable moving into the outfield. The organization has loaded up on shortstops much like the Chicago Cubs did in rebuilding their franchise knowing that the type of athletes that fill those roles in high school and college make it possible for early-career position shifts.

The Blue Jays Top 30 prospects list, according to MLB Pipeline, contains seven middle infielders including shortstop Kevin Smith at No. 7, a player the organization views not only as being a better defensive shortstop than Bichette but who has been part of off-season leadership and team-building exercises. Another high draft pick who has fallen out of the rankings, Logan Warmoth, still has fans within the organization.

But none of that can concern Travis. As long as he has a fan in the manager, he’s in with a chance.

"Charlie has been fantastic with this whole situation," said Travis. "He knows injuries are frustrating and to get that vote of confidence is pretty awesome.

"I can’t wait to get back, man," Travis continued. "I take a lot of pride in trying to make people’s words mean something."

We can’t wait either, man. We can’t wait either.

Jeff Blair hosts The Jeff Blair Show weekdays from 9 a.m.-noon ET on Sportsnet 590 The FAN

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