Donaldson to 'showcase' his progress in playoffs

Tribe's starting pitchers set for Games 1-3; One roster spot up in the air

October 3rd, 2018

CLEVELAND -- Consider the past month a kind of Spring Training for Josh Donaldson. Following an extended layoff, Donaldson went through a workout, moved on to some Minor League games, transitioned to the Major League side and then saw his workload go from a strict schedule to everyday duty.

Now, consider October Donaldson's Opening Day.

"It definitely gives me an opportunity to come out and showcase myself and where I'm at," Donaldson said Wednesday. "My entire focus has been -- in order to get healthy, be able to come and compete each and every day that I've been here -- I'm preparing as if it's my last game. So, you have that mentality. You have that mindset. You don't let things build up.

:: ALDS schedule and results ::

"It's kind of, 'Here. Here's what's on your plate today. You either eat it or you don't.' And I'm choosing to try to eat as much as possible."

Come Friday, when the Indians open the American League Division Series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park, Donaldson will be looking to chew on some pitching out of the fifth spot in Cleveland's lineup. The Indians acquired the third baseman from the Blue Jays prior to the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason eligibility and then worked with him to develop a plan for a return to full strength.

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Donaldson, who missed roughly three months with a left calf injury, has looked more and more like himself with each game played in a Cleveland uniform. In 16 games in September, the former AL Most Valuable Player Award winner turned in a .280/.400/.520 slash line with three homers, three doubles, seven RBIs, eight runs scored and as many walks (10) as strikeouts.

"We appreciated how he handled things," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And then, when he got on the field, he wanted to play every inning of every game, which I respect a lot. But we kind of held him back, and he handled everything very respectfully. And he's been fun to get to know. He's a baseball player. He wants to play, and he wants to beat you."

Donaldson is more than ready to put his regular-season trials in the rear-view mirror.

"I feel good. Ready to go," he said. "I'm excited to get back out there and hopefully make this an exciting postseason run."

Worth noting

• Francona revealed his planned 11-man pitching staff during Wednesday's workout. Behind starters (Game 1 on Friday), (Game 2 on Saturday) and Mike Clevinger (Game 3 on Monday), the remainder of the staff will feature lefties , Brad Hand and , along with righties , Shane Bieber, , and Dan Otero.

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As Francona detailed on Tuesday, Bauer and Bieber will be on call as relievers in the early games of the ALDS. Depending on how they are used, if at all, one of them would then start Game 4 (on Tuesday at Progressive Field), if necessary.

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• Besides backup catcher , outfielders and , plus corner infielder , are in the plans for the ALDS roster. That leaves one bench spot available, and the Indians' decision-makers are currently debating between carrying outfielder (speed and defense) or utility man (their only true backup shortstop on the roster).

"It's between Raj and Gonzie," Francona said. "Gonzie gives you a little bit of a safety net if something happens to somebody. Raj gives you the ability to maybe influence the game with his legs, as we've seen. So, we're all just trying to figure out what's the right thing to do."

• The players who do not make the ALDS roster will travel with the Indians to Houston for the first two games of the ALDS.

Said Francona: "The vast majority of the guys that are going with us are guys that are going to be guys that are with us next year. I think it's important for them to be a part of what we're doing."