Blue Jays can't breathe sigh of relief as Donaldson's status remains murky

Nick Ashbourne
Josh Donaldson will be absolutely essential to any success the Toronto Blue Jays have in 2017 (Chris O’Meara/AP)

The Toronto Blue Jays got some troubling news on Tuesday as Josh Donaldson wasn’t pencilled into the lineup in his familiar second spot for the team’s home opener.

When Donaldson suffered a calf injury on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays and his status was “day-to-day” – a designation that can be either encouraging or ominous, but is certainly opaque. That status has not changed – although manager John Gibbons still sees the situation as one that could be resolved as soon as Wednesday.

“It’s still hanging around, so we figure it’s best to go day-by-day and we’ll see where he’s at tomorrow,” he said prior to Tuesday’s contest.

Although he won’t be occupying his spot in the lineup, Gibbons isn’t ruling out a pinch-hitting appearance.

“With Josh you never know,” he said slyly.

From here, the concern for Donaldson is both missing time and whether he’ll wind up playing through pain in a way that could diminish his effectiveness. Because the Blue Jays signed Kendrys Morales to be a full-time designated hitter in the offseason, DH-ing Donaldson to keep his legs fresh for an extended period of time is difficult. Even so, Gibbons is willing to trot out Morales at first if it’s the only way to get the 2015 MVP into the lineup.

“If the only way to get his bat in the lineup is to use the DH spot that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “Kendrys would do a good, solid job at first base I think. We’ll make sure Josh is good and ready to go, but if it means DH-ing then, yeah he’ll be DH-ing.”

Donaldson is well known for his toughness and durability, but it looks like what happened in Tampa was more than a scare, even if he won’t be out long. That news isn’t ideal for the Blue Jays considering how valuable Donaldson is. The 16.3 WAR he’s posted in the last two seasons is second in baseball to Mike Trout and 2.1 more than Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion combined.

The Blue Jays need him in the lineup every day, and unfortunately for them that’s not where he’s going to be – at least for one day.