Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Devon Travis’s Knee Injury Began Mysteriously, Remains Mysterious

Devon Travis still ain’t right. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

John Gibbons spoke about his oft-injured second baseman to reporters today in Dunedin, and guess what? He’s still injured!

I don’t mean to make too much light of this, because I’m sure frustrating as hell for Travis — much more than it is even for us fans — it’s just… the pattern is getting a bit concerning. Especially the way it not only seems like Devo is always hurt, but that it seems the injury always ends up worse than we originally thought.

Gibbons admitted this morning that it’s possible Travis begins the year on the DL. “I expected him — to be honest with you — to be a little bit further along than he is,” the skipper said. You and me both, Gibbers!

But some of that disconnect is, I think, down a little bit to our memories. Travis’s Rotoworld page fills in some of the details that we may by now have forgotten — like the fact that, as far as the official story goes, he actually had three separate injuries at the end of the 2016 season. Did we know that??? Did know that? I guess we did, but I don’t even know anymore.

A brief refresher: Travis hurt his previously-injured left shoulder in the Jays’ exceptionally dumb brawl with the Yankees in late September, but he returned to the lineup in time for the end of the season, the Wild Card game, and the start of the ALDS. He was then scratched ahead of Game Two of the ALDS because of a knee injury. He went for an MRI and it was diagnosed as a “bone bruise,” which isn’t terribly serious, and he was made active for Game Three of the ALDS — though the club said they’d prefer not to use him, and only would in an emergency.

“Every day’s better, every hour’s better,” said Ross Atkins on October 10th, as the Jays waited for their doomed trip through the ALCS wringer to begin. The next day Gibbons told reporters Travis’s knee felt “much, much better.” The day after that Travis himself said he expected to be in the lineup for Game One against Cleveland. On game day he was indeed there, batting ninth.

Travis left Game One of the ALCS with what appeared to be a re-aggravation of the knee injury. This caused consternation among the Jays and their fans, because it wasn’t clear he’d be allowed to be replaced on the club’s ALCS roster. MLB could have denied the Jays’ request to replace Travis on the grounds that he had a pre-existing injury and they shouldn’t have rostered him in the first place. But then it turned out that it wasn’t the same injury at all!

“Atkins didn’t reveal details,” tweeted Gregor Chisholm at the time, “but said there was enough information from Travis’ MRI to reveal a new injury. Not just the bone bruise.”

Maybe this only happened to me, but in the whirlwind of the playoffs, and the “oh my god don’t talk to me about the fucking Jays right now” that followed their ALCS defeat, some of these details got a little bit lost.

Eventually we were told that the MRI during the ALCS found a small flap of cartilage caught in Devo’s knee joint. Ross Atkins said he was “optimistic” that his second baseman would be ready to go in Spring Training, and in doing so essentially implied that there might be reason not to be optimistic!

I don’t know that you can classify any operation on the inside of an athlete’s knee as actually being “minor,” but in the sports world “arthroscopic surgery” is often the catch-all for the most minor of knee procedures. This is probably hopelessly wrong (I mean, it’s a technique, not an ailment!), but as a fan your heart skips a beat when you hear that Russell Martin had knee surgery, then everything returns to normal when it’s explained as mere “arthroscopic surgery.”

In the Globe and Mail, Robert MacLeod began a piece last month on Martin missing the WBC because of the knee surgery like this:

In late November, Russell Martin entered a Florida hospital for arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, a procedure many professional athletes are only too familiar with.

It was to remove floating torn cartilage from the joint and it was not that pressing a concern for the Toronto Blue Jays catcher.

It was outpatient surgery, we’re told. And Martin, who is eight years older than Travis and plays a position that’s much harder on the knees, has been entirely fine so far, and is only skipping the WBC on an insurance-related technicality.

As a fan, you start to get frightened when you hear about torn ligaments, like with Marcus Stroman in 2015, or torn cartilage, like with Michael Saunders that same spring. The latter of which… uh… actually doesn’t sound too far removed, in terms of severity, from having cartilage caught in the joint.

Keep in mind: I have no clue what I’m talking about here — which I’m sure is painfully obvious to anybody who actually does. But my point is, Travis’s injury was perhaps a little more serious to begin with than we’d believed. Or had been led to believe.

Even understanding that everybody heals differently, given where his recovery stands four months after his procedure, I guess that’s sorta obvious now.

That is, unless — to get back to the fear I began this post with — he’s just one of those guys whose body just doesn’t stand up to the rigours well or doesn’t heal well at all. This is me getting deeper into medical science I know shit all about, but I dunno! This sort of thing keeps happening! And I’m not even sure what’s preferable: that the surgery was more intense than suggested or that he’s not healing well from something that should have been relatively mild.

“If it costs him a couple weeks during the season, so be it,” Gibbons said this morning, according to an Arden Zwelling tweet. “As long as we get him back.”

Hear, hear.

And in the meantime the Jays will weather the storm, if need be, through some combination of Steve Pearce, Darwin Barney, and Ryan Goins (and no, not freshly minted free agent Brett Lawrie, who you’ll be shocked to learn is hurting right now himself).

But the thing is: maybe simply getting Travis back at all and for good wouldn’t feel like such a win if whatever the hell happened to him — from the knee injury out of nowhere, to the minor-sounding surgery that perhaps wasn’t, to the manager confounded by his recovery timeline — hadn’t been quite so shrouded in mystery. Or if it didn’t kinda feel like we’ve seen this movie before.