Josh Donaldson is back: Toronto Blue Jays star shakes off calf injury to play first game this spring

Josh Donaldson is back: Toronto Blue Jays star shakes off calf injury to play first game this spring
On Monday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, the reins were finally released on the teams star third basemen, as welcome here as the first day of spring was up north.

With opening day just two weeks away and hisstrained right calf nearing full strength, Donaldson made his Grapefruit League debut at designated hitter against the Minnesota Twins.

By the scoreline, anyway, it was a modest debut for the 2015 American League MVP, but that hardly mattered. The Bringer of Rain had been crushing the ball in the batting cage for much of spring training and its doubtful hell need much work to get in game form.

The good news was he had a chance to run the bases and felt good in his three plate appearances: a walk, a strikeout and a play where he reached base on an error. With that behind him, Donaldson is hungry for more. Hes tentatively scheduled to make his spring debut at third base at home Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers.

Donaldson saidit has been tough to slog through what has felt like an endless spring.

It wasnt that easy for me to be patient because I want to be out there, Donaldson said after exiting the Jays 8-2 loss to the Twins in the sixth inning. The good thing is that its been somewhat of a longer spring training and it allowed me to take my time. Our training staff and everybody here just reiterated to take this as slow as possible and take all the right precautionary steps.

Other than the nagging calf which Donaldson says now feels normal he came to training camp in spectacular shape. Hes been drawing rave reviews at batting practice almost daily and looks to be in peak condition.

While Mondays debut was modest Donaldson only took one swing at the first 10 pitches he faced in a strikeout and walk theres no doubt it was a welcome sight to manager John Gibbons and the rest of the team.

Its a really big day for him and a big day for the ball club, Gibbons said. Weve been waiting for this day.

Donaldsons durability is well known and regarded around the Jays clubhouse. In his two seasons as a Jay, he has played 158 and 155 games, respectively.

The scoreboard was ugly an 8-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins but Jays manager John Gibbons didnt have to dig too deep to find a glowing review on Monday afternoon.

It came from the left arm of Jays starter Francisco Liriano, who struck out 10 Twins in 4.2 innings. The only blemish was a two-run homer he surrendered to Byung Ho Park in the fifth inning,but his fastball was humming and his slider was near-untouchable.

He was outstanding, Gibbons said. He gave up the home run, but he was pretty dominating. I cant say enough good things about him. I think hes going to have a big, big year.

Liriano continues to build his stamina, throwing 73 pitches on Monday and honing in on his location with his lethal fastball.

Physically, I feel great, and mentally, too, Liriano said. Im just trying to get myself ready for the season and I feel 100 per cent right now.

There was another frightening moment for the Jays when Ezequiel Carrera and Darwin Barney collided in the field. Barney remained in the game, but Carrera had to be helped to the Jays clubhouse. Gibbons said afterwards that the injury didnt appear to be serious.

Rob Longley

it is kind of rare in this day and age, Gibbons said. I think a lot of it is his toughness, his mentality. Thats kind of who he is. Hes one of those guys who has a big sense of obligation to his team. He knows they pay a lot of money for him to be out on the field.

Hes at the point in his career that he knows its huge for this team when hes on the field, so he has to make sure hes good and ready.

The Jays want to maximize that investment, of course, and with a enhanced emphasis on sports science and proper rehab, theres no way he was going to be rushed back.

Donaldson takes pride in his ability to play through nagging injuries and, more significantly, to be a contributor throughout the long season.

Consistency is the name of the game, Donaldson said. A lot of guys can go out there and do it for one or two games or maybe a month. What a lot of guys in this clubhouse take pride in is to be able to do it over the course of the year. Thats why weve been successful.

If I can play more games than I did last year at closer to 100 per cent, Im going to be better.

The return of Donaldson was just one of the positive steps for the Jays on Monday as the roster continues to round into shape. Devon Travis played four innings at second basein a minor-league game and plans to to do the same on Wednesday. If everything holds up with his injured knee, he hopes to appear in a major-league game on Friday.

Then theres right fielder Jose Bautista, who should be back with the team on Tuesday after his Dominican Republic team was eliminated at the World Baseball Classic.

And then youre looking at our team, Gibbons said. Were into the last couple of weeks and you want to see them all together. Kind of makes you feel good.

Topics: MLB , Sports , Toronto , Josh Donaldson , Toronto Blue Jays

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