TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays are optimistic that Josh Donaldson will return to the lineup Friday against the Boston Red Sox. The third baseman, who left Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays with a right calf strain, will be re-evaluated before the home opener to assess his progress.
"I think he’ll be out there tomorrow night," manager John Gibbons said before the Blue Jays worked out at Rogers Centre Thursday. "He’s feeling better today, but we’ve got to wait to tomorrow to see if it’s worth giving him a day or two. If he needs that it’d be smart to do that, but I don’t think it’s going to happen."
This isn’t the first time Donaldson has battled calf issues. He dealt with soreness often in 2015, when he played 158 games for the third consecutive season, hit 41 home runs and won the American League MVP award.
"Not everyone was aware of that but he’s battled calf issues," Gibbons said. "He played through it."
Mark Shapiro said Donaldson’s early exit created some concern for the team, but the Blue Jays president expects adversity in the six months remaining on the schedule.
"Any time you have one of the greatest players in the game and one of your best players leave any game, you’re uneasy. You feel something in the pit of your stomach, since those are the kinds of things that can affect seasons," Shapiro said. "At the same time, I think teams that have championship seasons realize that at some point you’re going to have to endure adversity and other guys are going to have to step up.
"Concern, certainly, but also know that there are going to be moments this year where we have some tough blows and these guys are and will have to be tough enough to overcome them."
Catch Marcus Stroman: The #STROSHOW, a special Sportsnet documentary debuting this Saturday, April 9, following the Red Sox-Blue Jays game.
If Donaldson needs a few more days, the Blue Jays could play Darwin Barney at third base. A more extended absence could lead to an opportunity for Andy Burns, who impressed in spring training, or Matt Dominguez, who’s regarded as an above-average defender. If Donaldson progresses as expected, neither one of those backup plans will be required.
Gibbons said the Blue Jays would take a similar wait-and-see approach with Michael Saunders, who rested an apparently minor hamstring issue Wednesday. Saunders told Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling that he expects to return to the lineup Friday.
Marcus Stroman gets the start Friday, when the Blue Jays open a six-game homestand in Toronto.