Donaldson reports to Blue Jays camp with great expectations

American League MVP Josh Donaldson reflects back on the tough ALCS loss to the Royals and looks ahead to what could be an even better 2016 season.

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Josh Donaldson isn’t worried about the Toronto Blue Jays‘ offensive potential this upcoming season.

He just feels sorry for opposing pitchers.

"The fact of the matter is, you have me, then you have Jose Bautista, who hit 40 homers last year … then Edwin Encarnacion, who’s hit over 40, then Russell Martin … (Chris) Colabello, (Justin) Smoak … Tulo (Troy Tulowitzki) — I mean, Jesus, it just keeps going," Donaldson said.


"I wouldn’t want to pitch against us. There were a lot of guys last year that we faced who were defeated before they even threw the first pitch. And those guys made their exit pretty quick."

Donaldson, the reigning MVP of the American League, reported to Blue Jays camp Thursday after a jam-packed off-season.

He played with PGA Tour star Jason Dufner in the Pebble Beach Pro Am — where he rubbed elbows with singer Justin Timberlake — took a photo of himself with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton at an Auburn football game (both are Tigers alumni), and even landed a speaking role on an episode of the History Channel’s Canadian-Irish drama series "Vikings."


"I had a great time," Donaldson said about his acting gig. "Went to Ireland (to film the episode), got to meet a lot of the cast members there, got to dress up and become a Viking. It’s something that is kind of still a little bit surreal to me.

"I’ve never been on a TV show. I never claimed to be an actor. But now I am an actor."

Fresh off avoiding arbitration with a two-year contract worth US$28.65 million, the all-star third baseman is entering his second season with the club.

The differences between this year’s camp and spring training last year, he said, are "night and day."

"Last year coming into a new team, a lot of new faces, trying to let everyone get acclimated to me and then really just trying to get to know everybody," Donaldson said. "This year they know who I am, I know most of the faces in there.

"This year (the goal) is trying to get the troops on board early on what the objectives are and I’m looking forward to having another good year."

While Bautista dominated storylines Monday with his comments on a possible contract extension, Donaldson is still years away from thinking of his own free agency. The infielder said he’s not even contemplating a longer-term deal at this time.


"I said earlier in the off-season that I would love to end my career as a Blue Jay but that’s something that we’re not even talking about right now for the sheer fact that I feel like both sides are happy where we’re at," he said. "I’m sure at some point we’ll have talks but that’s not even a concern for me right now."

Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said avoiding arbitration with one of his star players was "important, there’s no question about it."

"That’s the business reality of the game," Shapiro said. "Ninety-eight per cent of the time you’re aligned with identical objectives … and then you’re left with these small junctures of time when you’re across the table in a business setting and to some extent you’re against each other.

"That never feels good to me."


Donaldson said his focus now is on preparing for the season with the rest of his teammates. As defending AL East champions, they’re heading into the year with a different mindset than they had in the past.

"Last year, I don’t think the expectations were there for everybody coming into camp — you had some guys who were just trying to not be sent down, you had some guys who were just hoping to have a little success," Donaldson said.

"Now you have guys who’ve been in the playoffs, they have a full season under their belt and they’re coming in with higher expectations of themselves."