CLEVELAND -- The Indians are tenderly trying to work Josh Donaldson back into form, playing him every other day after acquiring him in a waiver-wire trade from Toronto and activating him Monday.
It’s not how the 2015 AL MVP rolls, but he’s adjusting to it since missing the majority of the season with multiple injuries and being sidelined since May.
“They’re trying to ease me back into it and it’s not something that I’m really accustomed to. Normally, I just go all in,” said Donaldson, who was out of the lineup Saturday after collecting his first two hits for his new team Friday night, including his first home run -- a towering solo shot to left that tied the game in the sixth inning. “But I understand their reasoning for it. I’m just trying to leave it in their hands to see how this transpires. My body’s been feeling pretty good. For me, it’s more about being able to breathe on the field and slowing myself down, because I find myself at times, I want to go, go, go and I want to force the issue at times.”
The Indians are proceeding with caution because they don’t want to jeopardize what Donaldson could provide if he stays healthy.
When in form, he’s one of baseball’s most feared hitters, batting .285 and averaging 37 homers from 2015-17. And he’s an above-average defender at third base.
“That guy’s one of the best players in the game, there’s no question about it,” right-hander Josh Tomlin said. “We were actually talking in the dugout the other day, his first game (Tuesday) at Tampa he took a swing and I kinda got chills. I’m glad he’s on our side now watching that swing as opposed to actually having to face that swing.”
“I feel like both of them have been pretty good so far,” Donaldson said of his offense and defense. “It’s been a while since I’ve had this type of adrenaline going through my body. I’ve had to try to take a step back, breathe a little bit more, try to slow the game down.”
Donaldson was in the midst of a rehab assignment for the Blue Jays for a problematic left calf and began another with the Indians when he was placed on the injured list shortly upon his arrival.
The three-time all-star hit a grand slam in his first game for Triple-A Columbus on Sept. 3, then homered again for Double-A Akron in an Eastern League postseason game two days later.
“I felt really good throughout the rehab,” he said. “I was really surprised with how well I was able to ... my pitch recognition was pretty on par pretty quick. The last three or four weeks, I’ve really turned a corner as far as how my body’s been able to recover and bounce back, so I’m happy with that.”
Donaldson went hitless in his first seven at-bats for the Indians prior to the homer Friday night. He got some support from an unlikely source in Jason Kipnis -- a two-time all-star who was forced to change positions and could lose playing time thanks to Donaldson’s addition -- after popping out in the fourth inning.
“Kip came up to me after my second at-bat, where I just missed one, and he said, ‘Hey, it’s gonna come. Don’t worry about it’” Donaldson said. “I’ve been around the game a long time. He’s been around the game a long time. But, as a player, you know when a guy needs (to catch) a break or a word of encouragement. He did that for me and that means a lot.”
Trevor Bauer (stress fracture lower-right leg) threw from the mound prior to Saturday’s game.
“That was a really positive step in the right direction,” team president Chris Antonetti said. “The last handful (of pitches) he really got after it and let it go and felt pretty good with it. So, overall, a very good day and a step in the right direction for us.”
Bauer threw 40 pitches and is expected to face hitters Tuesday during another session from the mound.
“Felt good,” he said. “Mechanics were a little out of sequence, but I haven’t really been on a mound a whole lot in a month and a half. I expect those will come back pretty quickly. Physically it felt good.”
“I know Trev wanted to feel like it was Game 7 today,” manager Terry Francona said. “It’s about impossible.”
Bauer was expected to miss 4-6 weeks after being placed on the disabled list Aug. 12. The Indians are hoping he is able to pitch in a game before the regular season is complete.
“If he continues on the path that he’s on, that would be our expectation,” Antonetti said. “Hopefully, we can build up volume and have him pitch multiple innings in a game. Exactly where that ends is really hard to predict, but that’s still the goal and objective.”
“That’s not my decision,” Bauer said. “I pitch when they tell me to pitch. I feel confident that I’ll be able to compete and help us win in whatever role that is. I come into spring training ready to throw 5-6-7 innings. So, I’ll make that point clear.
“I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. I would have cleared myself six weeks ago, so.”
Bauer said he still feels soreness in the leg.
“Sometimes. But that’s the way it is with an injury,” he said. “As long as there’s no chance of making it worse structurally, then whatever, pain is pain. I don’t care. I can pitch through that.”
No way, Jose
An largely unproductive second half has all but cost Jose Ramirez a chance of winning the award for the AL’s top player.
Ramirez was a strong candidate to become the Indians’ first MVP since Al Rosen (1953) when he entered the all-star break batting .302 with 29 homers, 70 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. But a second-half slump has seen him bat .231 in 50 games through Friday.
Ramirez went deep Wednesday for the first time since Aug. 17 and entered Saturday hitting only .215 since Aug. 3 (38 games).
It’s still been a top-shelf season for Ramirez, who ranked third in the AL with 38 homers, fourth with 99 RBIs and third with 32 stolen bases through Friday. He is just the third player in franchise history to reach 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in a single season -- the first to accomplish it in the majors since 2012.
The Indians, who have been credited for a no-quit approach under Francona, haven’t exactly displayed as much in the statistical department this year, entering Saturday with a 1-51 record when trailing after seven innings. The Indians had produced only four walk-off wins in 73 home games through Friday. ... Today, 1:10, STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM. Bieber (10-3, 4.32) vs. Liriano (4-10, 4.65).