CLEVELAND -- Josh Donaldson joined his new teammates in the dugout during Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay. When he’ll join them on the field is still uncertain.
Donaldson, who was acquired in a trade with Toronto late Friday night, was in the midst of a rehab assignment for a problematic left calf that has contributed to the 2015 AL MVP playing in only 36 games -- and not one since May 28.
He was activated from the disabled list Saturday, but could still be placed back on the injured list to continue his rehabilitation with one of the Indians’ minor league affiliates.
Terry Francona said Donaldson would be examined by team doctors this morning. If he is healthy and close to form, the manager knows what the Indians are getting in the three-time All-Star.
“He’s an MVP-type player, a middle-of-the-order bat, a guy that when he was on the other team, I used to joke with (bench coach Brad Mills), ‘I hope he swings so hard he hurts his back,’” Francona said of Donaldson, who hit .287 and averaged 37 home runs per season from 2015-17. “He kinda puts a little fear into you when he gets in the batter’s box. He plays with an edge. He plays hard.
“There’s no crystal ball, and we know that. We know there’s some risk there, but it’s got a chance to make us better. And I applaud our guys for trying to do that. Again, I know that there’s some risk there, but I think the reward is worth it, the potential reward is worth it.”
Donaldson’s arrival means a position change for third baseman Jose Ramirez, who will move to second base to make way for Donaldson.
Francona had been reluctant to move Ramirez and play a hot-hitting Yandy Diaz at third base, but that changed with the acquisition of a player the caliber of Donaldson.
“I talked to Jose back a little while just because of my feelings on it and some of my concerns and he assured me that he would willingly do this,” Francona said. “His concern was going back and forth, so I told him we wouldn’t do that. I’d like to talk to (Donaldson) first. Part of that is listening to him, too. We want to hear what he has to say and what he thinks, because that’s important and then we’ll put together a plan in place. But the one thing I want him to understand is, we’re moving Jose for him and we don’t want to move Jose back and forth, so when we get him playing, we want it to at least be pretty regularly.”
A struggling Jason Kipnis could be the odd man out. Francona said Kipnis would begin taking balls in center field, a spot he occupied at the end of last season and into the ALDS loss to the Yankees.
But there is no guarantee Kipnis supplants Greg Allen, who has been Cleveland’s primary starter in center for the past month.
“I talked to Kip and we knew this would affect Kip more than anybody and I don’t think he was jumping for joy and I don’t think we expected him to,” Francona said of Kipnis, who entered Saturday batting .227 with 13 homers and 56 RBIs in 124 games. “I explained to him, I said, ‘You know our owner went and did this and (team president) Chris (Antonetti) and (general manager Mike Chernoff) and I have to do my job too, so you gotta be the best option and I don’t think it’s fun to hear that but Kip’s a pretty good competitor, so we’ll see how it goes.”
“(Donaldson is) one of the more impactful bats there is around the league,” Kipnis told The Athletic on Friday night upon learning of the trade. “Hopefully he’s healthy and ready to come in and fit in here and make a good impact on us. We’re coming into September now. This is a playoff team. We don’t have time to mess around or goof around. We want him to be locked in if he’s ready and go out there and do what he can do.”
Francona said Ramirez and Kipnis would work out at their new projected positions, but that both would remain at second and third until Donaldson arrives.
Donaldson, who hit .270 with 33 homers and 78 RBIs in 113 games for Toronto in 2017, hasn’t played often this year, but he was active for a doubleheader against the Indians on May 3 at Progressive Field, homering in each game.
“That wouldn’t be the first time,” Francona said of Donaldson, who is batting .317 with nine homers and 36 RBIs in 37 career games against Cleveland. “He can hit the ball really hard. When he’s in that batter’s box, he’s one of the guys who, you think, ‘Uh oh.’ Now we can be cheering for him. I used to hate when Edwin (Encarnacion) did (the parrot). Now I love it.”
Team doctors met with right-hander Trevor Bauer to discuss the results of an MRI performed Thursday on the stress fracture in the lower part of his right leg.
“(The doctors) saw, from the way they termed it, minimal improvement, which I think was exactly what was expected at the three-week mark,” Francona said. “He’s thrown a couple bullpens. He felt some minimal soreness when he did that. The way the medical people told me was that, every day he shows up, they plan out the day, depending on how he’s feeling. That’s the way they’ll continue to do it.”
Bauer was expected to miss 4-6 weeks after being placed on the DL on Aug. 12.
The Indians activated outfielder Rajai Davis from the 10-day DL and added Triple-A Columbus catcher Eric Haase and right-hander Jon Edwards to their expanded roster.
Cleveland also designated RHP Evan Marshall for assignment.
Davis has appeared in 81 games for the Indians, batting .246 with a homer, six RBIs and 16 stolen bases.
Haase, a seventh-round draft pick in 2011, hit .236 with 20 homers and 71 RBIs in 120 games for Clippers. He will be making his MLB debut when he appears.
Edwards, 30, was signed to a minor league free agent contract this offseason after missing all of 2016-17, following reconstructive right elbow surgery. He split this year with Columbus and Double-A Akron, posting a 3.63 ERA over 34 games.
Edwards appeared in 31 games for the Rangers and Padres from 2014-15, posting a 4.32 ERA. He began his professional career as an outfielder in the Cardinals’ organization, converting to pitcher in 2012 with Texas.
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