The cheers were plentiful whenever Devon Travis made contact with the ball. A hard flyout to center field? Plenty of claps from the crowd as the majority of the fans at Coca-Cola Field were clad in Toronto Blue Jays jerseys.
It seemed appropriate on the fourth promotional “Blue Jays Weekend” celebrating the Buffalo-Toronto affiliation that three different players were wearing the throwback powder blue uniforms on a Major League injury rehabilitation assignment.
It was the third game with the Herd for Travis, who made his second start at second base as he makes his way back from offseason shoulder injury.
Pitchers Bo Schultz and Aaron Loup were also on the Bisons’ roster although neither reliever saw action in Saturday’s 7-4 loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Travis played seven innings, going 1 for 4 with a double in the first and a run scored. He is now 4 for 13 in his rehab stint with the Bisons.
It’s not his production at the plate that’s under the most watch but his play at second base. He hasn’t had many opportunities to make defensive plays in his first two games in the field with the Herd.
“I’d like to see him get a ground ball or two because he’s been out there twice and he’s got one ground ball in two games,” manager Gary Allenson said. “I’d like to see make some plays where he’s got to range for some stuff, but I’m sure if you ask him, he feels fine. He looks fine and hopefully not too much longer. We’ll see.”
Indeed, Travis says he feels fine. He doesn’t think about his shoulder at all and hopes that Sunday’s game, in which he will play a full nine innings for the first time on this rehabilitation assignment, includes more ground balls hit in his direction.
“I feel more comfortable at the plate than I do in the field just because I haven’t been out there a ton,” he said. “I wish they hit every ball to me because I need the reps, but I feel better every single day I’m out there.”
Being out there is something Travis doesn’t take for granted. Not since he was sidelined for months after October shoulder surgery and missed spring training. He approaches these games with the Bisons as a chance to find his baseball flow again and relearn how to cope with the grind of a six-month season.
“It’s so exciting for me every single day to come to the park,” Travis said. “I’d be lying if I said throughout the season when you’re midway through there’s not days when you go to the park and you’re like ‘All right, I’ve really got to strap it on today. We’ve got a game today. I’ve gotta get going.’
“But there’s nothing more exciting than being out on the field. Once that first pitch is thrown, you start hearing the music and the fans, you cannot beat that feeling, so I’m happy to be back.”
Working Travis into the lineup is one thing. Working relief pitchers into a game is a slightly different animal.
“If one of them comes in and he’s not pitching too well, he’s still going to be out there for his pitch count,” Allenson said. “Hopefully they’re locked in and helping our club out there, but that’s part of the process down here is letting them get their work in so they can help the big club.”
Case in point for the Herd was the performance of Schultz. Friday he picked up the win as the Bisons walked off with a 6-5 victory over Pawtucket.
But when Schultz, who is recovering from a hip injury, entered the game, he had a 5-1 lead. He gave up four runs on five hits, including a home run in the ninth to tie the game.
“He was overthrowing a little bit,” catcher A.J. Jimenez said of Schultz’s performance on Friday. “His fastball was coming out 98 but he was kinda, like, missing up. I think the most important thing for him is just calm down and control the pitches and take my target and locate pitches.”
Schultz likely won’t throw this weekend after tossing 39 pitches on Friday. Loup, however, should see an inning’s worth of work on Sunday. Returning from an elbow injury he suffered early in camp, Loup made three appearances for Single-A Dunedin this past week, pitching scoreless baseball in two of those outings.