Donaldson delivers big in return from injury

September 3rd, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Bomba Squad got a big boost on Wednesday with the activation of All-Star third baseman .

The former MVP returned in a big way, roping hits in each of his first two plate appearances, including a two-run double, as part of a 2-for-5 night. He started at third base and hit second, and after Max Kepler and Luis Arraez left with injuries, Donaldson's return became all the more important for a Twins club that climbed to within a half-game of the White Sox after Wednesday's 8-1 win.

Minnesota got a big boost with the returns of Byron Buxton and Michael Pineda on Tuesday, but Donaldson had been arguably its biggest missing piece, sidelined for a month with a right calf strain.

In a corresponding move, the Twins designated utility infielder for assignment. Vargas was acquired in an Aug. 11 trade with the D-backs and hit .227/.250/.364 with a double and triple in 10 games.

These returns of Buxton, Pineda, Donaldson and, eventually, Mitch Garver, were what the Twins had in mind when they sat idle at Monday's Trade Deadline and said they trusted the team they had already assembled to make a deep postseason run. They saw immediate returns with six innings of two-run ball from Pineda on Tuesday alongside a home run robbery and two hits from Buxton.

Donaldson could pack the biggest punch of all.

"It’s basically like the Trade Deadline comes and passes, but we don’t even need to make trades because we have three dudes coming back that are really going to help this team win," reliever Matt Wisler said. "So that brings that energy that a trade brings, having three guys like that coming back."

It's been a longer road back to the field than Donaldson and the Twins had immediately hoped when the third baseman exited a July 31 contest against Cleveland, and even considering all of his veteran experience and the $92 million contract that he signed, Donaldson took this as a learning experience.

Donaldson and the Twins initially thought he would be fine in a matter of days following the injury, but he went on the IL several days later when the calf didn't respond as planned. Donaldson missed significant time in both 2017 and '18 with injuries to each calf, and he said his rehab setbacks in those cases gave him the patience to get fully right before this return.

"I want to say I've only injured my calves twice during a game," Donaldson said. "I’ve injured them several times during rehab stints. I guess the knowledge that I've gained from that is kind of where we were at in the beginning, when it started kind of trending the other way, I didn't want to go, versus before, I wanted to keep going and press through it and not really listen to what my calf is trying to tell me what to do and just kind of be stubborn and keep going with this."

Donaldson admitted that on the day he suffered this injury, he wasn't able to get a full warmup in because the Twins didn't know whether or not they would play and had to wait for the results of a round of testing after it was revealed that the Cardinals suffered a COVID-19 outbreak after visiting Minneapolis.

He said that if he could do it all over again, he would have gone to Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and asked for a day off instead of pushing his body. He feels that all of this might have been avoided had he done that. It's obviously a tough ask of Donaldson, one of the fiercest competitors in the game, but he's gained that perspective.

"I’m now trying to take some of my own ego out of it, and take down some of the competitiveness of, ‘Hey, we need to go out there now,’" Donaldson said. "I’m trying to take everybody’s perspective to really harness that and say, ‘What’s going to be best not just for myself, but for the team?’"