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No-nonsense Travis known for relentless at-bats

Prospect has impressed Red Sox with his advanced approach at the plate
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Sam Travis is the youngest player in Red Sox camp both by age (22 years, 185 days) and how recently he was drafted (second round, 2014).

But the first baseman didn't throw a party for himself when he was informed earlier in the winter he would be invited to Major League camp. It was more likely that he went to the batting cage to take some extra swings.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Sam Travis is the youngest player in Red Sox camp both by age (22 years, 185 days) and how recently he was drafted (second round, 2014).

But the first baseman didn't throw a party for himself when he was informed earlier in the winter he would be invited to Major League camp. It was more likely that he went to the batting cage to take some extra swings.

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The no-nonsense Travis won't let up until he is actually in the Major Leagues. And even then, you sense he will never be the type to smile a whole lot while in uniform.

"It was a great feeling," Travis said of being invited to camp. "But at the same time, you have to keep working hard and keep your foot on the gas. You can't really take anything for granted at this point. You just keep your head down and keep moving forward and just do what you're told and work hard."

Anyone can say those things. But if you observe Travis for any length of time in either the clubhouse or on the practice fields, you can see that he means it.

"Watch the way he works. He's down to earth and serious about what he does," said Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis.

The right-handed hitter is known for his line-drive stroke and never giving away an at-bat. He seldom leaves the strike zone, as evidenced by a .384 on-base percentage after his promotion to Double-A Portland for the second half of last season. MLBPipeline.com ranks him as Boston's No. 9 prospect.

Travis is almost incredulous that any other approach to hitting would be conducive.

"You can't really hit if you don't get a good pitch to hit. Why do you have to chase the bad ones?" Travis said. "That's kind of how I think about it."

Video: Top Prospects: Sam Travis, 1B, Red Sox

Travis might have the most consistently relentless at-bats of any Red Sox prospect since Kevin Youkilis.

And fittingly, Travis sometimes hears the same questions about his game that Youkilis did at this stage of his development: Will he hit for enough power?

In 489 at-bats split between Class A Advanced Salem and Portland last year, Travis hit nine home runs. He cautions people not to read too much into it.

"I mean, I've got power," said Travis. "I know I've got power. It's baseball. It's a game of physics -- a round bat, a round ball. It's just something I'm not trying to do. I'm trying to hit the ball hard, and my home runs are going to be accidents. I'm just trying to do what's best for the team. I'm not going to go up there swinging for the fences and have selfish at-bats. I'm trying to win games."

Yes, winning is vitally important to Travis even at this stage of his career.

"People aren't going to remember the losers," said Travis. "It's simple. I'm just trying to win. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't."

Travis developed his ultra-competitive attitude playing for his dad during his youth in Orland Park, Ill.

"My dad was a competitor, and I've just had that competitiveness ever since I was a kid. He taught me everything I know," said Travis.

Video: SCO@SRR: Travis' RBI single extends Scorpions' lead

From Orland Park, Travis moved on to Indiana University, where he hit above .300 in all three of his college seasons. He's done the same for the Red Sox in his first two pro seasons.

"Sam is a very talented player," said Davis. "He's the youngest guy in camp, and the reason he's in camp is because the organization knows that he's a good player and they want him up here to get this kind of exposure as soon as possible. He has very good hands and quick hands. He's one of those young hitters that I don't know if he realizes all the things he does right, but he does a lot of things right."

And Davis loves that Travis doesn't swing for the fences.

"The ball jumps off his bat," Davis said. "The way he's been swinging the bat and been consistent with the bat, I'm willing to be patient enough to let the power show up. Last year he came to camp a couple of times just to back up in games, and when I was throwing him BP, you could see the explosion there -- the controlled explosion in the bat. He's a good one to watch."

Travis is expected to see action for the Red Sox on Monday against Boston College in the first game of a college doubleheader.

"He comes with pretty advanced billing for what he's done in a short period of time," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "A high-average hitter with line-drive ability. He's a hard-nosed kid and aggressive type of player. Those attributes you love about him, and looking forward to seeing it play out here."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, Sam Travis