Sports Baseball

Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson says calf injury 'frustrating'

By Steve Buffery, Toronto Sun

Josh Donaldson is seen in a game against the Boston Red Sox in Toronto on Sept. 9, 2016. (Craig Robertson/Postmedia Network File Photo)

Josh Donaldson is seen in a game against the Boston Red Sox in Toronto on Sept. 9, 2016. (Craig Robertson/Postmedia Network File Photo)

DUNEDIN - It’s all about the optics.

Inside the Blue Jays clubhouse at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on Sunday, All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson hobbled around on crutches. But when he stepped outside to talk to the media about his right calf injury, he was sans crutches. The message being: Don’t press the panic button.

The 2015 AL MVP suffered the right calf strain doing sprint drills on Friday. But Donaldson insisted that he’ll be ready to resume training in two-to-three weeks and is only using the crutches to take some of the weight off his calf. He also clarified what calf he hurt. News reports last year suggested that he had injured his right calf in the Jays’ opening series in Tampa but Donaldson insisted on Sunday that it was his left calf he hurt last year and it’s his right this year. In any event, he called this latest set-back “a little bump” and that he would almost certainly will be ready for opening day on April 3 in Baltimore.

“I’m sore. But overall, the rest of my body, I feel great,” he said. “But it is frustrating, for sure, because I had a great off-season working out ... preparing to play 162 regular season and, hopefully, some post-season games. So, yeah, there’s some frustration but, you know, that’s part of it and we have to learn, reassess and go from there.

“It’s one of those things, a little freak accident,” he added.

The Bringer of Rain was the bringer of interesting observations on Sunday, telling reporters that he felt the Jays under-performed offensively last year (759 runs) and expects the club to hit this season like they did in 2015 (891 runs, 1st in the AL).

“I think it is very plausible for us,” said Donaldson, who hit .284 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI in 155 games last season. “I think what you saw last year was our pitchers really took the bull by the horns and did a great job. It was phenomenal really. Hopefully we’re just a more balanced team this year and both sides are better.

“We have a really nice lineup and I’m looking forward to seeing Kendrys (Morales). I’ve heard really good things about him and getting to see him hit every day and having (Jose) Bautista back is always great for us,” Donaldson continued. “I’ve been talking to a lot of guys who are excited about being here and are ready to get going again. That makes it that much harder for me because I want to be out with them. But my time will come.”

Every Jays player has had rave reviews for the switch-hitter Morales and believe he’ll blossom at hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.

“He’s a very professional hitter,” said Donaldson. “He adds that extra dynamic of being a switch hitter to where now we’re not as right-handed heavy. Although, I didn’t really have a problem with us being right-handed heavy last year, or the years before that, because our right-handed hitters swung the bat well off righties anyhow. But it does make it a little bit more difficult for (opposing) managers.”

The 31-year-old power hitter said he didn’t really follow what the other teams in the AL East did in the off-season, but insisted that it doesn’t really matter.

“I did know that (Chris) Sale went to Boston and he’s a very good pitcher,” Donaldson said. “So we’ll have our challenges when facing him. But we feel like we can beat any pitcher that gets put on the mound.”

Donaldson spent much of the winter training with the Jays’ new High Performance and Medical Staff Department led by HP Director Angus Mugford in an effort to strengthen parts of his body that he’s had trouble with in the past, including his hips. He had rave reviews for the process.

“We did a lot of things, just a lot of different testings on my body to see how everything’s lined up,” he said. “It was really cool to be a part of and, until the other day, I felt amazing and was chomping at the bit to be out here."

“A big thing that I focused on this off-season, was my core, my hips, making sure they were strong,” he continued. “For me, and the things that I do on the baseball field, especially hitting and having a leg kick and doing some things that I put a lot of force into the ground that, over the course of time, when you’re constantly doing those things, (parts) of your body kind of end up breaking down to where it might become weaknesses. And this off-season we made a conscious effort to make sure my hips were stabilized, my core was stabilized and strong. And I’m very happy with the results. My hips and my core feel stronger than it’s ever been.”

The goal, he said, is to stay as healthy as possible but, at the same time, be able to play a full schedule. He’s certainly been durable, playing 155 games or more the last four seasons. Of course, playing 81 games at the Rogers Centre doesn’t help. Donaldson said he played through a lot of pain last season. When asked how hard the turf is on his body, he said: “That’s a good question."

“What’s the answer?” he was asked.

“I don’t know,” Donaldson replied.

SBuffery@postmedia.com

Twitter: @beezersun