'It’s a really big day for him': Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson set to make spring training debut
Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson takes practice swings Monday, March 13, 2017, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
With opening day of the 2017 major league baseball season just two weeks away, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson is ready to return to action.
The 2015 American League MVP will make his Grapefruit League debut here Monday afternoon when the Jays face the Minnesota Twins at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
Donaldson, who has been nursing a strained calf for most of the past month, will bat third in the Jays batting order as designated hitter. Over the past handful of days, Donaldson has gradually increased his workload - both in batting practice and on the field - and has been running more aggressively by the day.
“It’s a really big day for him and the ball club,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We’ve been waiting for this day. He’ll go out and run a little bit. I told him to just go easy on the bases.
“It’s a big step for him.”
Gibbons isn’t concerned that Donaldson has missed too much time. He’s been getting extended work in the batting cage and is a quick study.
“He’s proven himself in this league,” Gibbons said. “He’s at the point in his career that he knows it’s huge for this team when he’s on the field, so he has to make sure he’s good and ready. He doesn’t need all the extra stuff that a lot of guys do."
On Sunday, Donaldson had an extended session in the batting cage and rather than hit minor league pitching, opted to rest to make his debut against major league opponents.
“He looks great and he’s been coming along steadily,” Jays hitting coach Brook Jacboy said. “He’s taking strong swings at the plate, that’s what I can tell you. He’s in real shape and ready to go out there.”
Donaldson’s teammates have raved about his fitness this spring and over the past two weeks, have marvelled at the strength he has shown in the batting cage. Rather than rush him back into action, however, the team’s training staff was meticulous in his rehab with the goal of avoiding a setback.
With just two weeks until the Jays open their season in Baltimore, the pre-season games are expected to get more intense as Gibbons looks to get his lineup set for the season.
Jays second baseman Devon Travis also continues to progress. After hitting minor-league pitching for a handful of games, he’ll play second base at the Jays minor league complex on Monday and is hopeful of rejoining the team by the end of the week.