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Donaldson aggressive, excited in Braves debut

Slugger goes 0-for-1, draws walk Friday vs. Phillies
@mlbbowman
March 8, 2019

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though his much-anticipated spring debut amounted to just three innings of Friday night’s 5-4 win over the Phillies, Josh Donaldson managed to show the Braves he still has that unique ability to mix patience with aggression. Donaldson went hitless in two plate appearances as he

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though his much-anticipated spring debut amounted to just three innings of Friday night’s 5-4 win over the Phillies, Josh Donaldson managed to show the Braves he still has that unique ability to mix patience with aggression.

Donaldson went hitless in two plate appearances as he enjoyed his first game in a Braves uniform. The former American League MVP took a mighty hack at each of the first two pitches he saw from right-hander Zach Eflin, before popping out to shortstop in the first inning.

“I felt like I saw the ball pretty well,” Donaldson said. “It was moving a little quicker than normal, just having a little excitement and adrenaline.”

Donaldson drew a walk in his second plate appearance and then headed to the clubhouse after being replaced by a pinch-runner. A mixture of mighty swings and walks are not unique for Donaldson, who hit 111 homers and walked in 13.5 percent of his plate appearances from 2015-17. Of the 14 other players who tallied at least 100 homers within that span, the only ones to produce a higher walk percentage were Mike Trout (16.1) and Bryce Harper (16.9).

“Today, I wanted to be aggressive,” Donaldson said. “I hadn’t seen live pitching in about a week. So, I wanted to see where my timing was. It wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. But I was able to see some pitches and lay off some pretty tough pitches.”

Donaldson will limit his activity to normal workouts both of the next two days and then return to the Braves’ lineup for Monday’s home game against the Pirates. He has been healthy since the start of camp, but Atlanta’s medical staff attempted to counteract his aggressive approach by keeping him out of the first two weeks of Grapefruit League games.

This is an important season for Donaldson, who was projected to gain a significant multi-year deal before missing three months last season with a left calf strain. The injury led him to agree to the one-year, $23 million contract Atlanta provided in November.

Gausman’s debut

Kevin Gausman got his work in and attempted to make up for lost time as he allowed the Phillies four hits and three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. This was the spring debut for the veteran righty, who battled right shoulder discomfort during portions of last season and again during the first week of this year’s Spring Training.

While the results might not have been pretty, Gausman was happy with the way his arm felt during what was his first appearance since the National League Division Series. He is confident he’ll have time to make the preparations necessary to join Atlanta’s rotation within the season’s first four games.

“My arm feels good,” Gausman said. “It feels really quick right now. My body is working really well with it. Everything I’m doing [in the trainer’s room] to get my shoulder right for the season and the important games is paying off. The ball is coming out good and it has life through the zone. That’s kind of what you look for. The biggest thing right now is being healthy.”

Gohara optioned

Luiz Gohara’s second straight injury-marred, forgettable big league Spring Training ended Friday, when he was included in the Braves’ first round of spring cuts. Gohara was slowed by the left shoulder discomfort he felt during the first week of camp. The big lefty threw live batting practice Wednesday, but did not appear in any Grapefruit League games.

Due to their placement on the 40-man roster, Gohara, RHP Patrick Weigel and RHP Huascar Ynoa were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. The other seven players included in this round of cuts -- RHP Ian Anderson, LHP Joey Wentz, LHP Kyle Muller, C William Contreras, C Jonathan Morales, OF Greyson Jenista and OF Drew Waters -- were re-assigned to Minor League camp.

Injury updates

Mike Foltynewicz’s previously sore right elbow has not bothered him as he has spent the past few days playing catch. It’s unknown when Foltynewicz will be cleared to resume throwing off a mound. But the Braves are still hopeful he can join the rotation during the regular season’s first full week.

Right-handed reliever Darren O’Day has been recently slowed by right forearm discomfort. Left-handed reliever A.J. Minter says he is no longer bothered by the left shoulder tightness he experienced after being involved in a fender bender last week. But he has not been cleared to resume throwing off a mound. Manager Brian Snitker thinks both relievers will have enough time to be ready for Opening Day.

Up next

Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Brian McCann are all expected to be in the lineup when the Braves make the short drive to Lakeland for Saturday afternoon's game against the Tigers. Sean Newcomb will be making his third spring start for Atlanta.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.