KANSAS CITY – In theory, third base should have been the last position causing problems for the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays.
Josh Donaldson had generated at least 5.0 wins above replacement in each of the last five years, so as he entered his final season before free agency there was reason to expect continued all-star production.
Instead, third base has been anything but stable, with eight players contributing at the position and more mixing and matching likely in the weeks ahead. Yangervis Solarte’s oblique strain will sideline him for at least three more weeks, and while Donaldson’s progressing, he’s not close to returning either. For now, that makes Russell Martin the leading candidate for playing time at third.
An MRI revealed a Grade 2 right oblique strain for Solarte, who was officially placed on the disabled list Sunday. He’ll spend the next three weeks healing before being re-evaluated.
It’s imaginable, then, that he’ll be healthy enough to play in a month, but there’s also a chance the injury could linger even longer. Oblique strains often require a four-to-six-week recovery period and as a switch-hitter, Solarte must be able to comfortably rotate his torso in both directions before returning. Plus, within a few weeks the minor-league season will end and it’ll be challenging to find places for players to rehab.
Meanwhile, Donaldson continues running with no issues and will look to begin baserunning this week. If his calf responds well, a rehab assignment would be a logical next step.
“He’ll be back,” manager John Gibbons said.
Back sometime next week?
“I don’t know if it’d be that soon (but) I expect him to play again this year,” Gibbons clarified. “At least I hope he would.
“I think it’d be good for him to go out on a good note before he heads into the off-season.”
If Donaldson can return before the end of August, the Blue Jays could theoretically pass him through waivers, showcase him and trade him. Still, the Blue Jays only have two weeks to make that happen, since players traded after Aug. 31 aren’t playoff eligible.
Brandon Drury would have been a candidate to fill in at third, but he remains sidelined with a fractured left hand. He threw on the field at Kauffman Stadium Monday, but was unable to use a glove since he’s still wearing a cast.
With so many players still recovering, Martin becomes the likely candidate for playing time at third, especially now that Danny Jansen’s expected to start regularly behind the plate. Martin started at third Monday, his 11th appearance at the position this season.
All told, Blue Jays third basemen have hit .220/.289/.379 with 15 home runs this season. Their combined .668 OPS ranks last in the American League, underscoring just how much the Blue Jays have needed Donaldson.
As Gibbons put it, “you definitely miss him when he’s gone.”
• Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (left ankle sprain) continues to progress with ground ball range and running intensity and will begin baserunning this week.
• Aaron Sanchez (right index finger) pitched Sunday in the Gulf Coast League and is tentatively scheduled to throw Wednesday with the Blue Jays’ Class-A Dunedin affiliate.
• Marcus Stroman (blister) had no setbacks following his most recent appearance and remains on track to make his next start Friday in New York.