LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Josh Donaldson knows the calf injuries he has endured in the past two seasons may have been influenced by the Spring Training ailments that prevented him from making normal preparations.
So the 2015 American League MVP Award winner has appreciated the chance to spend the past couple weeks maintaining a patient and deliberate approach to preparing for the upcoming season. But at the same time, the Braves third baseman admits he’s anxiously awaited the opportunity he’ll realize Friday night, when he makes his spring debut against the Phillies.
“The last week or so, I’ve been kind of champing at the bit,” Donaldson said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations. We’re just trying to be smart about everything and check all the boxes off. I’m looking forward to being able to go out there and play, and more importantly not having to think about anything when I’m out there.”
Though Donaldson has been healthy since arriving at Spring Training nearly three weeks ago, the Braves have done whatever they can to protect the one-year, $23 million investment they made in November. The veteran third baseman has completed drills daily, and on Wednesday, he passed his last test while simulating baserunning activities during what was essentially normal batting practice.
With Rookie-level Danville hitting coach Danny Santiesteban serving as the BP pitcher, Donaldson drilled each of the three balls he put in play. He tested his lower-body strength while legging out the double he produced with his first swing, and then he simulated his home run trot after sending a ball over the left-center-field fence.
“I’m feeling very confident right now,” Donaldson said. “If the season were to start in a week or two, my body would be feeling very good to where I can just go out there and there won’t be any questions.”
Donaldson did not have this same peace of mind when he approached either of the past two seasons. His right calf plagued him during the weeks leading up to the 2017 season. Two weeks into the season, the ailment caused Donaldson to spend a month on the injured list. His right shoulder discomfort during last year’s Spring Training ultimately sent him to the injured list by mid-April. Donaldson returned in May, but by the end of the month he suffered a significant left calf injury that sidelined him until September.
So given where Donaldson has been recently around this time of year, he is happy to be healthy three weeks ahead of Opening Day. Even though he’ll ease into his playing schedule, he should have plenty of time to get at least 40 plate appearances in big league games, and possibly a handful of others in Minor League games.
“Spring Training at-bats are not very meaningful,” Donaldson said. “It’s hard to simulate a regular-season at-bat in Spring Training. It’s going to be different in the regular season. You have guys who are going to be amped up. Their stuff is going to be different. But in Spring Training, it’s good to see the ball and feel the bat and make sure you’re moving properly.”