Posted on September 16, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Toronto Blue Jays may have dodged a major injury. Third baseman and reigning MVP Josh Donaldson underwent an MRI on his hip on Wednesday after missing a few days of action, but he was back in the lineup on Thursday, apparently healthy, and made a big impact in Toronto’s win over the Los Angeles Angels.
The team did not go into detail about the results of the MRI, nor did Donaldson, but the few days off seemed to serve him well, as Donaldson went 3 for 3 with two walks and two doubles, helping the Blue Jays beat the Angels 7-2. Every win is an important win for Toronto at this point in the season, as the Blue Jays entered play Thursday with a mere one-game lead in the American League wild card race, an unfortunate bi-product of going 4-9 during the month of September, including Thursday’s win.
“(The doctor) said my hips look good, for a 30-year-old athlete,” Donaldson said before the game. “That’s what he did say. Obviously there’s some wear and tear probably but we feel like it’s good enough for me to play.”
Donaldson did not do any kind of baseball activity during the days he missed. “Every day I’ve been getting my treatment, and the first couple of days I felt pretty bad afterwards, and the last couple of days, I’ve been able to get some of that soreness out,” Donaldson said after Thursday’s game. “Pain is one of those things you have to learn how to play through, especially with as long a season as it is. I felt like I was able to go today.”
The caveat to Donaldson’s return on Thursday was that he was in the lineup as the DH. Donaldson took infield practice before Thursday’s game, but it’s unclear when he’ll return to third base. If Donaldson takes the DH spot in the lineup, it forces the Blue Jays to place both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in the field, which is not ideal.
Nevertheless, the Blue Jays are excited to have his bat back in the lineup, and seeing him reach base five times on Thursday night is a great sign for Toronto after Donaldson had struggled thus far in September. In 10 games during the month of September, Donaldson is hitting just .176, even after Thursday’s 3 for 3 performance. He’s also yet to hit a home run in 34 September at bats, a stark contrast from August when he hit nine home runs in 94 at bats.
Of course, it remains unclear just how healthy Donaldson is and whether he’ll need to take days off down the stretch in order to remain healthy. Even Toronto manager John Gibbons isn’t sure. “I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest with you,” Gibbons said after Thursday’s game. “But shoot, he looked great. He sparked us a little bit there too. He was running well, he turned those balls into doubles. That’s good to see. He’s a key guy for this team, everybody knows that. He just adds that one extra dimension, gets on base for those other guys. It’s good to have him back.”
Thursday’s win pulled the Blue Jays even with the Baltimore Orioles for the top wild card spot in the American League. It also gave them a two-game cushion over the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners in the wild card race. There’s still a long way to go in the season, and the Blue Jays are still just 4-9 in September, but the return of Donaldson on Thursday and the hope that he’s going to be healthy enough to play down the stretch will certainly help the Blue Jays secure a spot in the postseason.