TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson's right shoulder appears to be a bigger issue than the Blue Jays were letting on for most of Spring Training.
Donaldson seemed incapable of making a strong throw across the diamond during Toronto's 6-1 loss to the Yankees on Opening Day on Thursday. He was tested throughout the game, but not once did he unleash a typical throw to first base and instead seemed to be lobbing the ball to Justin Smoak.
The problem became noticeable in the first inning when Donaldson made a weak throw after a diving stop on a grounder off the bat of Gary Sanchez. It popped up again several other times throughout the game, but manager John Gibbons attempted to dismiss the issue by saying that Donaldson is dealing with a dead arm, which is something pitchers often experience.
"His arm just feels dead, not injured," Gibbons said. "He was definitely a little off so we may have to DH him a little bit more until it comes back. We don't think it's a big deal, it's just dead."
The term "dead arm" is commonly used throughout baseball, but it does not refer to an actual injury. The phrase is used when there is no structural damage in the arm or shoulder but instead a feeling of fatigue. Pitchers typically have to battle through phases of it during Spring Training and early parts of the season, but it's not very common with position players.
Donaldson said Thursday evening that he was dealing with the problem throughout Spring Training. The former American League MVP Award winner had good days and bad days, and there was no real way to predict how he would be feeling from one day to the next. That's one reason why he missed a period of time in early March because of "right shoulder soreness."
The 32-year-old returned to the field on March 16 and was sporadically in and out of the lineup the rest of spring, which is not uncommon for regular position players. Donaldson also skipped the recent two-game exhibition series in Montreal, but at the time the Blue Jays stated that was simply because he preferred to receive more at-bats in Minor League games. Turns out, there was likely more to the situation than just the Montreal turf.
"There are programs that we have and there are things that we're going to be able to do to get there," Donaldson said. "It felt good and as the game went along it felt like it was getting better. ... It's kind of felt like some days feel really good and maybe the next day I'm overworking it sometimes. It's a thing that I'm trying to be cautious with and knowing when to push it and when not to."
Yangervis Solarte is expected to handle third base whenever Donaldson is not playing the field. If Donaldson requires additional time at designated hitter, it will cost Kendrys Morales his spot in the lineup because Smoak remains the everyday option at first base.
"Today, he just had to make a couple of off-balance throws, that's why it stood out," Gibbons said. "I'm not particularly worried."