Notebook: Blue Jays had ‘no problem’ with Vegas trip

Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons talks about signing off on Josh Donaldson and Aaron Sanchez’s trip to Las Vegas.

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Josh Donaldson and Aaron Sanchez spent Saturday night in Las Vegas with the blessing of the Toronto Blue Jays.

After working out at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium Saturday morning, Donaldson and Sanchez took a chartered plane to watch Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson face Tyron Woodley at UFC 209.

“We OK’d it,” manager John Gibbons said. “We had no problem with it. We knew they were going to be back. In Josh’s case we were going to let him do it anyway, even if he wasn’t injured. It’s something that was important to him. We talked a while back. It’s not interfering with anything else.”

No issues at all, then? “They could have invited me,” Gibbons joked.

Donaldson’s a big UFC fan who knows Thompson personally. The two sparred before UFC 206 in Toronto last December.

The 31-year-old third baseman continues working his way back from a calf strain with regular long toss, fielding and batting practice sessions. He can now walk around without any discomfort, an improvement compared to this time last week.

“That’s a huge step in the right direction,” Donaldson said Saturday. “Every day it’s feeling way better.”

Asked whether Donaldson got treatment for his calf strain in Las Vegas, Gibbons said “I’m sure he got plenty of massages out there.”


Expect to see Marcus Stroman vary his delivery when he makes his second start of the Grapefruit League schedule Sunday. The right-hander mixed in hesitation pitches and quick pitches in his spring debut Monday as a way of keeping opposing hitters off-balance. After extensive core workouts over the off-season, Stroman considers his alternative deliveries finished products—far more advanced than they were this time last year.

“If it works, it works,” Gibbons said. “That’s really the name of the game.”

Stroman pitched two perfect innings in his spring debut while striking out three Pirates.

Kendrys Morales has impressed his new manager with his professionalism both on and off the field. While most veterans avoid long road tips, Morales has volunteered to take a couple of trips already.

“He was more than happy to hop on a bus the other day and go down to Bradenton,” Gibbons said. “That’s kind of rare—rare around here, anyways.”

Mat Latos impressed Gibbons in his second spring outing, retiring all six of the hitters he faced while striking out two with a fastball in the 91-92 mph range. “Latos has got a lot of weapons. He can come at you. He’s a big guy, throws downhill,” Gibbons said… J.A. Happ will start Tuesday when the Blue Jays face Canada’s WBC team… Troy Tulowitzki makes his spring debut Sunday, after which point he’s expected to play every second day or so.

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