In baseball bad things are ranked like this.
Bad - Being sent down.
Very Bad - Being cut.
Really Very Bad - Being stuck in the Devil Rays organization.
Travis Minix knows this first hand, but he's too classy to come right out and say it. If you want anything even resembling an honest answer what you have to do is ask him to compare his former organization, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, with his current organization, the Philadelphia Phillies.
"It's like night and day." Minix says, "Philadelphia has just been honest and up front with me from day one." They told me what they expected from me, what their plans were for me, just spelled it out." When they got me [farm director] Mike Arbuckle just talked to me and told me what to expect, and that's what I got."
And the D'Rays?
"I personally try to stay away from the business side of things, I just want to play baseball, but I never felt like I was really given the opportunity there." I never really felt like I was given a chance."
Of course, things change, and for Minix, that meant a change of organization."
"I was a six year free agent after 2004, and I think Tampa knew I wasn't going to come back, so when the Phillies got me I was excited."
Excited is one thing, re-signing is another, but Minix took care of that on November 12th when he re-signed with the Phillies, meaning he's got a home, and for the first time in a while, it's a happy home for the closer." Minix, who signed with the D'Rays back in 1999, and is heading straight to Winter Ball in Puerto Rico after his time in the Arizona Fall League, is working hard to make a name for himself, and he recognizes that the time for that is now.
"I'm one of the older guys here, maybe the oldest, and I think I've probably got a little different outlook on things from some of these bonus babies." My situation is one where I've got to get there now if I want to get there." It's not the Phillies fault that I'm in this situation, but I think in a lot of ways they understand where I'm at."
Where he's at is the back end of the bullpen, a spot that the Phillies might or might not be in a pickle with soon. Billy Wagner is a free agent, and he's arguably the most sought after one in this offseason. The Phillies want to sign him back up, but he'll have offers, and if he chooses to leave, there will be a spot open.
"A big spot too," Minix says, "and I feel like I'm ready to step in if they ask me to, but that's the organization's decision, not mine."
In fact, it's a role the Minix might only now be getting actively groomed for. During his seven year minor league career Minix has been a starter, a long relief guy, a set up man and a closer, but here in the AFL, his role has been very clear. Through Friday (November 4) Minix had been handed the ball ten times, and in nine of those situations he finished the game."
"Yeah, I'm comfortable in the closers role, but I'm comfortable almost anywhere." I get the ball, I throw strikes, and I get guys out, that doesn't change much from the fourth inning to the ninth."
In fact, Minix doesn't really believe in the whole, 'Closer's Mentality.'
"I think that's a myth. Playing baseball, you can develop that. Throwing 97 miles per hour? You're born with that," said Minix. "Am I that prototypical closer who comes in and blows gas by people? No, that's not me, but I have the confidence to throw strikes and get guys out, and we're seeing guys who are the best who don't throw that hard. If you look at Chad Cordero in Washington, he throws like 91, and he was maybe the best closer in the Majors this years. I think a 'closer's mentality' is just a mentality to know that you can get guys out late in the game."
For Travis Minix, his mentality is one of a guy who's been given a new lease on his baseball life, and that won't change if Wagner re-signs. For the first time since he's gone pro the 27 year old feels like he's got a legitimate shot, an organization that believes in him, and believes he can help them. His mentality isn't one of a closer, it's one of a winner.