I would like for you to bear in mind that what you are about to see is a defensive highlight—it shows Josh Donaldson, Toronto’s third baseman, making a nice diving stab to his left, then rising to make a throw across the diamond. It’s the throw you’ll want to watch, in particular—it jumps out at you, despite the pay no attention to the man behind the curtain glove-work. Oh man, that throw:
That was one of two highlight-ish stops Donaldson had in that game, Thursday: the second time also involved a dive to the dirt and a throw to first—that throw, unlike this one, did not bounce 20 feet from its destination, but it did have the happy parabolic arc and moseying pace of a pitch in beer league softball. Josh Donaldson’s throwing arm is in rough shape.
The good news is, whatever is ailing his throwing arm is apparently not bothering him at the plate; the bad news is, they do not let you play third base by swinging a bat at grounders. Also, the issue has apparently been around all spring:
Donaldson’s manager, John Gibbons, also feels like an injury that prevents his third baseman from being able to throw the ball in the air across the diamond with any more urgency than a soap bubble on a gentle summer breeze isn’t much of a big deal:
Fortunately Donaldson plays in the American League, which means he can be hid, for the time being, at designated hitter, where he played Friday and will reportedly play again Saturday. It’s not a big deal so long as they can still use his bat, and so long as they’re getting competent play from another third baseman. The Blue Jays started utility infielder Yangervis Solarte at third for Friday’s loss to the Yankees. Solarte knocked in one of Toronto’s two runs in the game; Donaldson, for his part, has opened the season 0-for-7 from the plate, with three strikeouts and a walk.
You may recall, shoulder injuries led to an agonizing decline in the throwing ability of former Gold Glove-winning Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman went from a bazooka-armed everyday rock at third to a guy with the most painful-looking throwing motion in baseball, to, ultimately, a [very good] first-baseman. Donaldson’s share of games at third has fluctuated since his 2015 MVP season: he started 150 games there that season, with seven DH starts; the following season that ratio tipped to 134 and 19; last season 103 of his 112 starts came at third. Donaldson’s bat is what’s most important, but the Blue Jays would almost certainly prefer to do something with their DH spot other than use it to make room for Solarte. But while Donaldson’s arm has become a sad noodle, playing him at his natural position seems out of the question.