TORONTO — Baseball was back Tuesday in Toronto. Josh Donaldson's calf wasn't.
The star third baseman, who left Sunday's game in Tampa with right calf tightness, did not start against the Milwaukee Brewers for Toronto's 41st home opener. Instead he was a pinch hitter, striking out in the ninth inning of the Blue Jays' 4-3 loss.
The good news? This calf injury is in a different spot than the one that sidelined him for most of spring training.
"My calf's feeling a lot better today than it was even just yesterday. That being said they want to take a little more cautious route than I would want to take," Donaldson said wistfully of the team medical staff. "But ultimately it's their decision. They get paid to make those kind of decisions and they've got a lot more schooling in the situation than I have.
"So I'll take their word for it for now."
Asked before the game if he wanted to give it a try Tuesday, Donaldson replied: "Well, I would love to give it a try. But that's not my call and I trust what they're saying."
The 31-year-old Floridian, a small earring in the shape of a cross hanging off his left ear, said he hoped to at least pinch-hit.
Donaldson was honoured prior to the game for his second straight American League Silver Slugger Award.
The Jays did get closer Roberto Osuna back after a stint on the 10-day disabled list due to neck spasms. Right-hander Casey Lawrence was optioned to triple-A Buffalo to make room.
Donaldson had just 16 pre-season at-bats due to a similar injury. He was taken out of the 7-2 loss to Tampa in the sixth inning, saying later he felt some calf discomfort as he rounded first base after homering.
"It's still hanging around," manager John Gibbons said. "So we figured it would be best to (give it) another day and go day-to-day. We'll see where he's at (Wednesday).
Ryan Goins got the start at third.
Donaldson, who won AL MVP honours in 2015, has had chronic calf problems.
"It's just an issue that I've always had — kind of tight calves. And it's to the point now where we're continually trying to find ways and methods to make sure that they're OK. And we're doing our best to try and figure it out. We haven't got a great grasp on it, but we feel like we're getting closer."
He said the spring training injury was on the inner part of the calf and felt "more substantial."
"It felt like somebody punched me in the back of my calf whenever I was running," he explained.
The latest issue felt "like more of a fatigue factor where it kind of like cramped up a little bit."
Donaldson said the schedule had not helped with games on unforgiving surfaces in Montreal, Baltimore and Tampa.
Going into the home opener, Toronto had been held to two runs or less in four of its six starts, averaging 3.3 runs a game. The Jays averaged 4.8 runs a year in 2016.
Donaldson had eights hits, including two home runs and a double, in 24 at-bats.
"It hurts. He's one of our best players, if not our biggest offensive weapon," said outfielder Jose Bautista. "We've got to figure out a way to win every single day regardless of the guys in the lineup and who's on the mound."
"Baseball's the same game whether Josh is in the lineup or out of the lineup," echoed catcher Russell Martin. "Obviously we're a better team when he's in the lineup. He's an MVP-type-calibre player. But it gives an opportunity for somebody else to step in and do something good for us
"I still like our chances, I still like our team. So we'll take it from there."
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press