New Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson will try to prove durability in 2019

New Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson will try to prove durability in 2019

February 20th, 2019 by Associated Press in Sports - Professional

Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson takes batting practice during spring training Wednesday in Florida. Donaldson signed a one-year deal with the Braves as a free agent in the offseason.

Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson takes batting...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Finding a job was pretty easy for Josh Donaldson.

Proving he can keep it will be the tough part.

The 2015 American League MVP didn't have to wait long for a new opportunity on the diamond, signing a one-year, $23 million contract with the Atlanta Braves less than a month after the World Series ended.

"I didn't expect it to go that quickly," the third baseman said Wednesday, the day before his first organized workout with the 2018 National League East Division champions. "It was my first time in free agency, so I had something of an idea, but you don't really know.

"I was very happy with the timing of it. They gave me the ease of the entire offseason to know which team I was going to be with."

At 33 and coming off two straight injury-riddled seasons, the three-time All-Star (2014-16) understood his market value had changed — and that he would have to prove he can play an entire season.

"I wasn't expecting much (contract) length," said Donaldson, who made his MLB debut with the Oakland Athletics in 2010 and has also played for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians. "I think you have to be realistic in what you're looking for. One year, I felt, was a great opportunity to come here and help this organization.

"I feel like if I go out and play well, there could be a chance for more years after this."

After finishing among the top eight in AL MVP voting four straight times and winning the award with Toronto in 2015, when he led the league in RBIs and runs scored, Donaldson was limited to 113 games by a calf injury in 2017. Last season, due mostly to a shoulder injury, he played in a total of 52 games with the Blue Jays and the Indians, to whom he was traded in August.

"I'm not a robot," he said. "Everybody, if they play long enough, is going to deal with injuries — 2017 was the first time I've missed time due to an injury. Then 2018 was a lost season because of injuries. As we continue in our careers, our bodies are constantly evolving, and we're just trying to be ahead of that and focus on being as efficient and as strong as possible."

Donaldson spent the offseason working on his lower body, trying to gain strength in his feet and toes and improve his mobility.

"When I was 26, 27 years old, I felt I could go out there and and tear a hamstring, and the next day I could be fine," he said. "The older you get into your career and the more evolved you get into your career, you know you're going to have to deal with things a little better."

While acknowledging he had little familiarity with the former American Leaguer when Atlanta agreed to the deal with Donaldson, Braves manager Brian Snitker knew the player would be a good fit when he called him soon after the signing.

"I can tell the energy with which he plays, the intensity with which he plays and the focus on winning," said Snitker, whose initial plan is for Donaldson to bat second, play third and stay healthy.

Donaldson, who grew up as a Braves fan in Florida and Alabama — he played college baseball at Auburn — has a sense of coming home at a crucial point in his career.

"I just have a little more to prove this year," he said, "than probably in years past."

Although Thursday will mark the Braves' first full-squad workout, the routine won't be much different from the past three days, with everybody having reported.

"We'll have some team-oriented things in, we'll start working on some fundamentals," Snitker said. "That'll be the biggest change."

As for Saturday's exhibition opener against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, right-hander Touki Toussaint and left-hander Kolby Allard are set to pitch for the Braves.