It was one of those Grapefruit League days, March 19, at Marchant Stadium. The Rays had a big lead on the Tigers. The innings were getting late. The Tigers needed bodies.

Not that many in the crowd had a clue as to who he was; Devon Travis arrived from Tigers camp for an at-bat in a genuine big league preseason game.

He promptly drilled a pitch on a line over the left-field fence for a two-run home run. Media members flipped through their press guides: Travis, 22, had been a 13th-round draft pick last June from Florida State. He was 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, and clearly enjoyed attacking pitches with his right-handed swing.

It's precisely what Travis, a middle infielder, has been doing at Single A West Michigan, where heading into Sunday's game at Wisconsin, Travis was batting .355 in 20 games, with four home runs and a .974 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

"The guy's a ballplayer — his picture's under that heading," said Dave Owen, the Tigers' director of player development. "He's obviously not a big kid, but he runs OK, he plays good defense, and is probably one of the best guys we have at turning the double play.

"He comes to the yard and knows how to get himself ready to play. And he's got some pop in his bat that will surprise you. Just a good ballplayer."

The Tigers learned of Travis last year when big league scout Bruce Tanner, an ex-Florida State player, saw Travis during a big league exhibition game against the Seminoles.

"He was just kind of a gritty, over-achieving type," David Chadd, Tigers vice president of amateur scouting, remembers of Tanner's and subsequent scouting reports. "Fundamentally sound. Played the game hard. The overall tool set and makeup were tremendous. Just a solid individual, overall."