Blue Jays’ Donaldson takes step toward return from injury

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) celebrates a home run. (Nathan Denette/CP)

KANSAS CITY – Josh Donaldson took a meaningful step toward returning to action Wednesday, completing baserunning drills in Dunedin, Fla.

The third baseman, who has been sidelined since May 28 with a left calf strain, posted video of himself running on Instagram with the caption “getting closer.” If he progresses well in drills, the next logical step would be rehab games.

Getting closer!!

A post shared by Josh Donaldson (@tos_bor20) on

The Blue Jays haven’t established a firm timeline for Donaldson’s return, but manager John Gibbons expressed confidence Monday that the 2015 AL MVP will return. “He’ll be back,” Gibbons said. “I expect him to play again this year.”

Donaldson wasn’t the only Blue Jays player rehabbing in Florida Wednesday, as Aaron Sanchez started for Class A Dunedin. The right-hander completed 3.2 innings and struck out three but struggled with command, walking four and throwing just 35 of 74 pitches for strikes.

Given Sanchez’s apparent issues throwing strikes, he’ll likely need more time rehabbing in the minors.

PANNONE OPTIONED

Thomas Pannone’s back on option in the minor-leagues for now, but the Blue Jays expect to see him back in the majors this season. And though he debuted out of the bullpen, he’s going to be stretched out at triple-A Buffalo with a view toward getting him some big-league starts down the stretch.

“We want to have him go down there and start again, build him up a little bit,” Gibbons said. “Maybe he comes up in September and get a couple of starts. He did a good job, though.”

Pannone allowed two runs in his MLB debut against the Rays Friday before making two scoreless appearances against the Royals.

“He should have left here feeling good, I would hope,” Gibbons said.

PUSH FOR VLADDY?

Even as Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s success continues at triple-A Buffalo, it appears unlikely that the Blue Jays will promote him to the major-leagues this year. While the organization could never say as much, the sport’s collective bargaining agreement heavily incentivizes teams to delay the debuts of elite prospects until a few weeks into a new season, since doing so assures them of nearly seven years of team control as opposed to six.

As a result, the likes of Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper and Ronald Acuna often make their debuts in late April. Unfortunately for fans, it’s the responsible move from a front office standpoint when a prospect’s truly elite. But knowing Guerrero Jr.’s considerable potential, would Gibbons push for a September promotion?

“I stay out of that considering where we’re at,” Gibbons said. “So much goes into those decisions as you guys (the media) know. Now if we were in the thick of it, it might be a different story, but we’ve got to do what’s best for him and them.”

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HAPP VS. BLUE JAYS

J.A. Happ has a 1.89 ERA with just eight hits allowed in 19 innings since joining the Yankees. Not only that, he has picked up three wins, giving him 13 on the season and an outside chance at repeating as a 20-game winner. Gibbons would like to see that happen–just as long as the wins keep coming after Sunday, when Happ’s slated to face the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Gibbons said of the left-hander’s success. “It will be kind of weird Sunday, though, with him pitching.”

GILES TRENDING UP

Ken Giles’ Blue Jays career got off to a slow start, as he allowed runs in three of his first four appearances. Since then, the right-hander has strung together consecutive scoreless outings, including a clean two-strikeout appearance Tuesday.

Gibbons has been impressed by Giles’ work of late, particularly his slider.

“When he keeps that thing down, it’s almost unhittable,” Gibbons said.

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