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Travis' injury clouds Toronto's roster decisions

Second baseman still recovering from offseason knee surgery
MLB.com @gregorMLB

The regular season is more than three weeks away, but already there are concerns about whether Devon Travis will be cleared for the start of the season.

Travis has yet to appear in a game this spring as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery. There is no clear date for his return, and unless he turns a corner relatively soon Opening Day will be thrown into question

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The regular season is more than three weeks away, but already there are concerns about whether Devon Travis will be cleared for the start of the season.

Travis has yet to appear in a game this spring as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery. There is no clear date for his return, and unless he turns a corner relatively soon Opening Day will be thrown into question

View Full Game Coverage

"I expected him -- to be honest with you -- to be a little bit further along than he is," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons admitted to reporters on Tuesday. "But we're going to be cautious with him ... Don't read anything into that. If it costs him a couple of weeks during the regular season, so be it. As long as we get him back."

Travis' injury could have repercussions throughout the entire roster. Here's a closer look at what it all means:

Second base: First and foremost, the Blue Jays have to decide who gets the bulk of the playing time at second. The early expectation is that Toronto will do what it did in the past and use a platoon of Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins. That would be good news for Goins, who is out of options and was expected to be designated for assignment at the end of camp. Travis' injury likely means Goins won't have to go through waivers, at least for now, and buys the club a little but more time to make its decision.

Leading off: Travis is the closest thing Toronto has to a prototypical leadoff hitter. His walk rate dropped last season but he still excelled at the plate thanks to a .300 average and .785 OPS. He's the Blue Jays' best option at the top of the lineup, but until Travis is healthy the club will have to look elsewhere, and that's where the real problems begin. Jose Bautista is one option but Gibbons previously mentioned his desire to use him out of the No. 3 spot. Other candidates include Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and possibly even Russell Martin, but there is no obvious choice.

Pearce's position: The Blue Jays signed Steve Pearce to play either first base or left field but there's an outside chance he could see some time at second. Pearce appeared in 15 games at second last season and has 33 games at the position during his 10-year career. If Toronto were to make a move like that it would be sacrificing defense for the upside of his bat. Pearce has a 0.4 career ultimate zone rating (UZR) at second, compared to 8.9 at first and 1.3 in left field. Last year, Pearce had a -0.3 UZR at second compared to Travis' 1.6 and Barney's 1.2. If Toronto wants to use Pearce at second, it would be best served starting him there when a fly ball pitcher such as Marco Estrada is on the mound.

The injury bug: The only good news is that the Blue Jays have grown accustomed to surviving without Travis. He missed large chunks of time during each of the last two seasons thanks to shoulder and knee surgeries, and now questions are being asked about his ability to stay healthy. Travis is effective almost whenever he is on the field, but he has been off it far too much during the early stages of his career. That has to change, but until it does Toronto will remain patient.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Devon Travis