Tigers’ minor league player of the year fitting in at camp
LAKELAND, Fla. — If you had to write a script for a perfect year, Devon Travis came close to it in 2013.
Travis, who turned 23 Friday, hit .352 with six home runs and 42 RBIs in 77 games with the West Michigan Whitecaps.
He was promoted to the Florida State League’s Lakeland Flying Tigers, where he batted .350 with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs in 55 games.
"The kid just played well," said Larry Parrish, Travis’ manager at West Michigan. "He’s one of those guys, he reminds me a little bit of Curtis Granderson, in the fact that you just gotta put his name in the lineup.
I’ve watched him here in camp. He just looks like he belongs here.
Larry Parrish on Devon Travis
"He shows up to play every day. Just a great mental approach to the game along with being able to play … I’ve watched him here in camp. He just looks like he belongs here."
Travis was one of 16 players invited to major-league camp. As would be expected of him, he credits others for his success.
"I definitely gotta give all the credit to the coaches," Travis said. "Every day they kind of told me, ‘You need to find a routine and stay on it.’
"That’s something I’ve never done in my career — kind of go to the cages when you’re not feeling great. They (said), ‘You gotta come to the cages every day. You gotta go through your routine.’ I think that’s something that definitely helped me out a lot."
That routine led Travis to the Midwest League All-Star Game.
"That was unbelievable," Travis said. "Being around so many great baseball players at one time is pretty special."
As Parrish said, Travis didn’t miss a beat when he went from West Michigan to Lakeland, which helped him earn Tigers Minor League Player of the Year honors.
"I don’t really think there’s words for it," Travis said. "There’s so many guys that were just as deserving of it. Just to be that guy definitely was pretty special for sure."
All in all, not bad for a 13th-round draft pick out of Florida State University in 2012.
Travis, a second baseman, is listed at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, which explains why he lasted so long in the draft.
"Probably the reason he was drafted in the 13th round," Parrish said. "The only thing you’d question was his size. But then when you see him play, he’ll win you over.
"He’s got some pop in there. He’s not just a little base hit guy. He can drive the ball. He’s just a special little player."
Although Travis will likely spend the year at Double-A Erie, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has observed him during camp.
"I’ve watched him, some hitting and turning a double play," Ausmus said. "He seems to be real quick on the turn at second base. He looks athletic.
"I gotta see him in a game to make any type of assessment. Seems like a really good kid."
Travis is also special in the way he interacts with people. He’s unfailingly polite and kind to everyone, whether it’s coaches, teammates, media, team employees or stadium workers.
"He’s just got that infectious personality," Parrish said. "He likes showing up at the ballpark every day. He likes to play the game. He likes the competition. He’s a smart kid.
"When you coach him and you talk to him about things, he picks up on it. You don’t have to tell him again tomorrow and the next day and the next day. He takes it and runs with it."
Travis can run a little bit, too. He stole 22 bases between West Michigan and Lakeland last season.
There’s only one thing he would have changed about last year.
"I was really a little jealous of the guys in Erie — and the year before, the guys in Lakeland — of going far into the playoffs and winning," Travis said. "So definitely my biggest goal this year is to get in the playoffs and make a little push."