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Richard Griffin: Devon Travis is healthy, playing every day ... and smiling

Richard Griffin: Devon Travis is healthy, playing every day ... and smiling
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For Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis, 2018 has been highly unusual. Yes, it’s been difficult to smile because of the team struggles as a whole. But for a player that always tries to find the bright side, he has enough reasons to believe that things may have turned a corner for a man, the Jays’ prince of hard-luck.

Now in his fourth big-league campaign, all with the Jays, Travis has not spent a single day on the disabled list this year after missing a total of 267 days his first three years. That fact alone should leave him smiling, but there’s so much more.

“And that gives me the most satisfaction, for sure,” Travis said prior to Thursday’s Red Sox finale, an 8-5 victory for Blue Jays. “My goal going into every year has just been to be healthy and be accountable and be there for my team.

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“What probably makes me the proudest is being able to show up every day and have our manager be able to write me into the lineup card and not have to worry about how I’m feeling. That is something I take the most pride in, just wanting to be available for this year every day.”

Travis has had any number of doubters that never believed he could get back on the field for a full season without being injured, most of them freaky. Other than a 24-day stint on option to Triple-A Buffalo to get his service time under control, giving the Jays an extra season of his service, the fact is the most games in a row that he has sat down in 2018 has been three, July 28-30. Durability has him smiling.

Though the Jays knew exactly how long they needed to send him down to the Bisons, the stint on the farm clearly had a positive effect on the 27-year-old. His first game back he was hitless and was batting .141 for the year. But since that time, he has gone 49-for-173 (.283), with seven homers, 30 RBIs and a .792 OPS in 53 games, raising his season average to .245. That has him smiling.

On Thursday, Travis was in the lineup again batting second for the sixth straight game. In his preferred lineup spot this year, he had hit .304, with a double, two homers, seven RBIs and a .942 OPS. The top of the order is the only place he wants to bat. It’s now his. That has him smiling.

“I want to be at the top of the lineup,” Travis emphasized. “I feel like that’s a good place for me. My approach really doesn’t change though, no matter where I’m hitting. It’s been a tough year. It’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster from the start. Hopefully at the end, I can look back and be a little proud, but right now in the middle of it it’s really hard to pat myself on the back and say, ‘Hey man, congratulations, you’re back up to the two-hole.’”

Make no mistake, the thing that has Travis smiling the most is the knowledge that it’s been his hard work off the field in rehabbing all those injuries that has led him back to the Jays on a regular basis. It’s the knowledge his teammates can rely on him to contribute to wins without being treated with kid gloves.

“Damn right, it’s been a tough go at the beginning of my career, so far when it comes to injuries,” Travis explained with his eyes welling up as he thought back to the hours, days and months of intense exercise and rehab in Florida.

“Everybody works hard in this game … everybody. But these injuries have been tough. You’ve seen my face in the tough times. It’s not easy, man. I don’t really get too caught up in my own success. For me, it’s just a gift I was given and on any given day where I’m given a little bit of extra success out on the field, that’s just icing on the cake. But truly, being able to come into this clubhouse every day and put on a uniform and look up at the lineup card and see your name on there, that’s the feelings, that’s the things that you see now really bring me joy.”

But injuries can strike at any time and success can turn to failure without notice. Travis is well aware of the fragility of what he has accomplished and needs to improve on. He has a mature outlook on this clubhouse and his place therein. But he’s the type of person that no matter what would keep smiling anyway.

“It’s not the success, because success comes with so much failure that if you get too caught up in it, the failure will bring you down pretty low when it’s not going well,” Travis said.

Those are the teammates he wants to emulate, but a team that he admires right now was Thursday’s opponent, the first-place Red Sox.

“I think the Red Sox are the most complete team that I’ve played against since I’ve been in the big leagues,” Travis said. “It’s always a big test. There are times when you want to come out for your team, try to maybe pick it up an extra gear because you have to. I try not to get too caught up in it, but they’re really good.”
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