When replays showed Chicago Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber clutching his knee, down on the turf in Arizona, Sam Travis winced.
Schwarber suffered a major knee injury last April 7. Travis, a former teammate at Indiana University, reached out to him.
Unfortunately for Travis, Schwarber would get a chance to offer his own commiseration.
Travis, 23, was playing first base for Triple-A Pawtucket on May 29 when he tore the ACL in his left knee during a rundown.
Travis needed major surgery. followed by rehab. Schwarber knew the drill, and he called Travis.
“I’ve actually talked to him quite a bit,” Travis said, during a recent media gathering with Boston Red Sox prospects. “He was always kind of one step ahead of me at all times, having it happen earlier than me.
“He just gave me the lowdown, told me what it was like, that it was a grind and I had to embrace it.”
Embrace the grind? That is right in Travis’ wheelhouse. If there is one thing he knows how to do, it’s to keep grinding, pushing himself – even if it’s in a trainer’s room instead of on the field.
During his frustrating 2016 season, Travis did not have to toil alone. There was Schwarber.
“It actually worked out, having someone to talk to about it,” Travis said.
And the best part was watching his friend be rewarded for his work. Against all odds, Schwarber made it back just in time. After the long rehab and six at-bats in the Arizona Fall League, Schwarber suited up for the Cubs in the World Series. He batted .412 in five games (5 for 17 with a double).
“It was great to see what he did,” said Travis, who, as a Chicago native, also appreciated the Cubs’ championship. But he was more focused on Schwarber.
“I was super jacked up for him. It was a lot of fun to watch.”
Where will Travis’ rehab take him? No World Series predictions, but Travis is sure of one thing.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “I feel strong, stronger than ever.”
Is he ahead of schedule?
“The plan was to be ready for spring training, and I’m ready to go,” Travis said. Reporters waited for him to elaborate. Travis looked up and shrugged. “That’s it.”
After a few more questions, he repeated the mantra: “I’m ready to go.”
That is what Travis often said when he played for the Portland Sea Dogs in the second half of the 2015 season, having been drafted only a year before in the second round. (Schwarber went in the first round that year, the fourth overall pick.)
Travis has been considered a throwback, a player who goes all out all the time, one who judges every game not by his statistics, but by wins and losses.
“Certainly, listening to him, his mentality is the same,” said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. “I would expect him to be in a good place pretty quickly.”
In his brief minor league career (245 games), Travis has a .303 average with an .816 OPS. Invited to major league spring training camp last year, Travis hung around longer than anticipated, batting .469 with two home runs in 18 games.
“He was in a good place (before the injury),” Crockett said. “Showed a lot of things, from a consistency standpoint, that he had done coming up through the system – the ability to use all the field with that line-drive, double-to-the-gap approach, with enough power to hit the ball over the fence when a mistake was made.”
Travis, who bats right-handed, does not show a lot of home run power. He hit nine in 2015 between Salem and Portland. But he hits for average and for extra bases.
Last year’s injury interrupted Travis’ development. He is expected to begin the season in Pawtucket again. Boston’s first-base duties will be handled by right-handed hitting Hanley Ramirez (when he is not the designated hitter) and newly acquired lefty Mitch Moreland.
Travis appears to be in Boston’s future plans as one of the few top prospects not traded in the past two off-seasons. Travis doesn’t talk about his chances.
“Main focus is to get healthy and get back on the field, and control what I can control,” Travis said.
Sounds like he’s ready to go.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: