LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Josh Donaldson did not receive the lucrative, multi-year contract he'd have likely gained had he been healthy last year. But given what Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and some of this winter's other top free agents have experienced, Donaldson has more reason to be thankful for
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Josh Donaldson did not receive the lucrative, multi-year contract he'd have likely gained had he been healthy last year. But given what Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and some of this winter's other top free agents have experienced, Donaldson has more reason to be thankful for the one-year, $23 million deal the Braves provided in November.
"I feel very blessed to be in this situation that I'm in," Donaldson said. "If I'd have been healthy last year, who knows what would have happened or what situation I'd be in right now. But I'm very confident, and I'm thrilled to be here and be a part of this organization.":: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Still fueled by those childhood days, when Ron Gant was his favorite player and the Braves were his team, Donaldson appreciates the feel-good aspect of his current opportunity. But while playing close to his Alabama home and enjoying a chance to once again work with Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos, the former American League MVP Award winner also understands the importance of rejuvenating his career with his deal.
Donaldson missed two months of the 2017 season with a left calf strain, came to Spring Training last year with a sore shoulder and then sustained a more significant right calf injury that limited him to just 52 games during the 2018 season.
"Honestly, I thought it was a great deal for me, especially coming off the injury-plagued season I had a year ago," Donaldson said. "I was looking forward to proving Alex right again. I proved him right the first time he got me, and now I want to do it again."
While serving as the Blue Jays general manger, Anthopoulos acquired Donaldson from the A's before the 2015 season. The third baseman won the AL MVP Award at the conclusion of that memorable year, during which he helped Toronto reach the AL Championship Series.
Donaldson finished fourth in balloting for the 2016 AL MVP Award and then suffered the left calf strain that limited him to 113 games the next season. Even with that setback, he produced MLB's second-best bWAR (36.1) from 2013-17. Mike Trout was the only player with a higher mark (43.1.).
Now, the 33-year-old Donaldson must prove he is capable and worthy of ranking among the game's elite. He certainly didn't show any limitations as his intense approach was on display while he aggressively took batting practice in the cages and on the back fields at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex on Sunday.
"I feel like a newborn baby," Donaldson said. "I didn't have to go through that grind last year. I went through the grind mentally, because physically I wasn't able to perform at all really. This offseason, I was able to refresh the mindset, get back to doing what I can do and just focus on staying positive."
Donaldson missed a portion of Spring Training in 2017 with a right calf strain, then he was bothered by the shoulder discomfort that affected last year's preseason preparations. He has come to this year's camp healthy and cognizant of the fact the preparations made over the next six weeks will significantly influence his bid to avoid yet another injury-plagued season.
"I'd love to play 162 [regular-season games]," Donaldson said. "I'd love that, but the chances of that happening are probably zero. If I could say right now what I think I'm capable of doing and what I'd love to do with everything being perfect, I'd say I could play 150-155. I've done that so many years in the past. The last couple years, that has been difficult because Spring Training has been taken away from me."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.