Devon Travis bounded into the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse like he didn't have a care in the world, smiling like the guy holding the winning lottery ticket. It was several hours before Toronto's Tuesday night game against the Texas Rangers, and Travis was bouncing around like a clubhouse pinball.
He exchanged a heartfelt hug with Kevin Pillar, the Toronto centre fielder, before exchanging fist bumps with several clubhouse attendants. After that it was off for a brief, closed-door meeting with John Gibbons, the Toronto manager.
But when he was speaking with reporters, the big grin faded as Travis tried to relate how it felt not being able to participate in the Blue Jays first late-season playoff push since 1993.
"As far as pain tolerance, I can play through pain," Travis said of the left shoulder injury that interrupted a promising rookie campaign. "Like, everyone in this locker room is playing through a nick or something. If I can get it to the point where it's just the pain, where it's hurting me but I can keep going, I can get through that. But as of now, it's a lot more than just a little pain."
Travis said he hopes that, with six weeks left in the regular season, his shoulder will undergo a miraculous recovery.
"I'm not giving up yet," the 24-year-old said. "The guys haven't given up on me yet, so that's always encouraging. My plan is to get back and do all I can to help this team win. That's my goal. I'm not changing it until someone tells me that it can't be done."
Doctors and specialists, however, are telling him that only time will heal the soreness that has locked up his left shoulder.
"It needs time to heal and that's exactly what I don't have," said Travis, who had a second cortisone shot into the shoulder after visiting Keith Meister, an orthopedic surgeon here, for a second opinion on his ailment.
Both Travis and the Blue Jays know that, before returning to the team, he will have to play at least a couple of games in the minor leagues in order to try to get his timing back at the plate. But with only about two weeks left in the minor-league regular season, time is running out.
"I'm not going to write it off, but he's not making enough progress right now," said Gibbons, an eternal optimist who did not sound that optimistic.
Gibbons said he has confidence in a second-base platoon of Ryan Goins and newcomer Cliff Pennington, who got the start Tuesday night in the first of a three-game series against the Rangers.
Both Goins and Pennington are solid defenders, but they lack the offence that Travis can bring. He was hitting .304 with eight home runs and 35 runs batted in before he was sidelined for the second time this year on July 28.
"So yeah, that's a kick in the gut," Gibbons said.
Travis said one of the most difficult aspects of his slow recovery has been watching fellow teammate Marcus Stroman's comparatively quick recovery from a knee injury that was once considered season-ending.
Stroman will pitch in a second simulated game on Friday in Florida, and it's possible he could factor into a September stretch drive for the Blue Jays. Travis wishes he was healing that fast, too.
"I'm not envying Marcus for that," he said, "but for sure, seeing him and he's about to come back and help this ball club, that's exciting stuff. I'm pumped for him. And he's always motivating me. He comes in every morning, 'Hey man, let's go, got to get you going.' He's like a ball of energy. He walks in the room and he's like a pot of coffee, you don't even have to have anything. He gets everybody going."
Everybody but Travis, it would seem.