Posted on February 19, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s less than a week into spring training, but there’s already a former MVP on the shelf. Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson has been diagnosed with a right calf strain, an injury he picked up while running sprints during the first full day of workouts. Donaldson was walking with the assistance of crutches on Sunday, when he told the media that he will likely remain on the sidelines for the next two to three weeks while the injury heals.
“It’s something that we don’t necessarily want to push too much, just for the simple fact that we have a little extra time with Spring Training right now,” Donaldson said. “I’m just making sure that whenever I step back on the field, it’s ready to go and I’m ready to be able to push it.”
Donaldson says that his left calf was occasionally a problem last season, although it never forced him to the DL. That calf problem didn’t appear to hamper his performance much, as Donaldson hit .284 with 37 home runs last year, posting an OPS of .953, which was actually higher than during his MVP campaign in 2015.
If there’s a silver lining to the injury, it’s that it happened so early in camp, leaving Donaldson plenty of time to recover and get enough spring training at bats to be ready for opening day. Of course, the injury is nevertheless disappointing for Donaldson, who says he felt “phenomenal” during workouts prior to Friday’s sprints when he “felt something” amiss with his calf muscle.
“Until the other day, I felt amazing,” Donaldson said. “I was chomping at the bit to be out here. Now this is just a minor little setback, and we’ll move on.”
Toronto GM Ross Atkins has echoed the former MVP’s thoughts on the injury being nothing more than a slight setback. “Josh does a very good job of taking care of himself,” Atkins said. “He’s put himself in a great position this off-season and he’s in really good shape. He also recovers very well. When you factor all of that in, it mitigates the concern to some extent.”
Clearly, both the Blue Jays and Donaldson are optimistic that the injury will not threaten his availability for opening day. However, one can’t help but feel a little nervous at the now 31-year old Donaldson pulling a muscle. Health has not been an issue for him in the past, as he’s played at least 155 games in each of the past four seasons. However, the Blue Jays have to hope that his calf issue doesn’t signal a change in Donaldson’s good fortune on the injury front.
With Edwin Encarnacion leaving the Blue Jays and signing with the Cleveland Indians, Donaldson is undoubtedly the most important figure in Toronto’s lineup. Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista are also important hitters in the heart of Toronto’s order, but both are much bigger injury risks than Donaldson. This makes it imperative for the former MVP to stay healthy and stay on the field once the regular season gets underway.
It’s also pertinent to mention that the Blue Jays have little infield depth, especially with starting second baseman Devon Travis taking things slowly at the start of spring after offseason knee surgery. Donaldson missing time during the regular season would be disastrous for Toronto, as there’d be a massive drop off from him to whomever fills in for him. For now, there’s nothing to fear, but Donaldson’s injury early in spring is a gentle reminder of just how important he is to the team’s hopes in 2017.