Healthy Donaldson key for 2018 campaign

Third baseman makes spring debut in field against Braves

March 6th, 2018

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Josh Donaldson made his spring debut at third base on Tuesday afternoon in a 5-1 loss to the Braves, and he now appears to be completely over a sore right shoulder that sidelined him earlier in camp.

Donaldson went 1-for-1 with a walk, and made a clean play on the lone ground ball hit in his direction. He previously appeared in a couple of games at designated hitter, but Tuesday afternoon's game marked his first appearance in the field.

A right calf injury cost Donaldson most of 2017's Spring Training, and the issue lingered deep into the season. The 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner never really seemed like himself until the second half of the year, and the Blue Jays can ill afford any setbacks for the third baseman if they want to contend.

"You look back at the couple of years that he has been here, he really has been the centerpiece," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We had a perfect front seat to it last year, when he was out for an extended period of time, and when he came back, what he did the last couple of months, all it does is reinforce or remind you just how good he is."

Donaldson's return to the field came a few hours after a minor verbal disagreement with Gibbons, but it was the result of a simple misunderstanding.

Toronto typically plays music during batting practice, but the club didn't do that Tuesday morning because a school -- located just beyond the left-field wall of Dunedin Stadium -- was issuing standardized testing to its students. The Blue Jays posted a sign on the clubhouse bulletin board explaining the situation, but Donaldson didn't see it.

Donaldson rolled a large speaker onto the field at the start of batting practice, and after a couple of minutes, Gibbons walked over to remove it. That prompted a quick exchange, but cooler heads quickly prevailed once the situation was explained to Donaldson.

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"To me it's just, I didn't know why he wanted the speaker off," Donaldson said. "We've had the speaker on several times for stretch before, when I've been part of stretching. So I didn't know what was going on. I saw it on the board after. I didn't see it was on the board.

"Me and Gibby had a conversation about it. He told me why we couldn't have music out there today. I didn't know. But I'll probably have music out there tomorrow."

Injury updates

is still "a few days away" from throwing, according to Gibbons. Stroman was shut down early in camp because of inflammation in his right shoulder, and he has yet to resume throwing off a mound. The 26-year-old remains doubtful for the start of the year.

• Outfielder Steve Pearce also is out for at least the next few days because of a calf injury. It's the same right leg that caused him issues last year, but the Blue Jays are claiming the latest incident happened because of dehydration.

"Mild strain, little dehydration," Gibbons said. "Cramped up a little bit, I guess you could say. It'll be a few days, simply because he had the issue in the past, so we need to make sure he is good and ready."

Worth mentioning

• Outfielder hit his first home run of the spring during on Tuesday. Hernandez picked up the only hit off Braves lefty with a third-inning homer over the wall in left. Gibbons said if Pearce is not ready for the start of the year, then Hernandez likely heads north as part of a platoon with veteran .

•  allowed three runs on four hits while striking out five over 3 1/3 innings against Atlanta. He did not walk a batter, but had difficulty locating his curveball throughout the outing and left a few pitches up in the zone. He's still in the process of getting used to his new mechanics, which removed a hitch in his delivery and is aimed at having him pitch at a more efficient pace.

"The raising of the ball today was something that doesn't necessarily need to be ignored, but also doesn't need to be panicked over, I think, because it's just part of getting ready," Biagini said. "If it becomes a trend, then you have to make some adjustments, but I feel like I should give myself a chance to use the streamlined, simplified, motion that I have because I feel pretty good about that."

Up next

The Blue Jays will play a pair of split-squad games on Wednesday afternoon. At home in Dunedin, Fla., left-hander J.A. Happ will take the mound vs. Pirates righty with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. In Lakeland, Fla., prospect Thomas Pannone gets the call against Detroit's Matthew Boyd in a 1:05 p.m. ET start time. and Donaldson are among the position players making the trip. Listen to both games on Gameday Audio.