Jays' Donaldson still feels at home in Oakland (Jun 06, 2017)
OAKLAND, Calif. -- More than three years have passed since the Oakland A's traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays, but he still savors every trip to the Oakland Coliseum.
"It's fun," Donaldson said Monday before the opener of a three-game series. "This is where it started for me, and I enjoy coming back."
It was with Oakland that Donaldson made the transition from catcher to third baseman and quickly developed into one of baseball's top sluggers. He hit 24 home runs in 2013 and 29 in 2014. Then in 2015, his first season with Toronto, Donaldson hit 41 home runs, drove in 123 runs, scored 122 times and was the American League's MVP.
The A's made the playoffs in Donaldson's final three seasons in Oakland, from 2012-2014. A's fans, he said, still appreciate his contributions to those teams.
"I've been coming to play here at the (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) the last couple years," Donaldson said. "It's really crazy how many people come out that are A's fans that want to come say hello and say they miss me, or whatever it may be. It's just exciting for me.
"I think most importantly they saw the teams that I was a part of when I was here and the success that we had, and it brings back a lot of good memories for them, too."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he knew Donaldson was an ascending player before the slugger landed in Toronto.
"We didn't play him a lot, but you could tell he was a good player when we played him," Gibbons said. "Then somehow we end up with him. He's done wonders for us. You could tell. He's got that attitude. Good things happen. There's definitely something different about him."
The Blues Jays traded four players to Oakland for Donaldson: infielder Brett Lawrie, right-hander Kendall Graveman, left-hander Sean Nolin and infielder Franklin Barreto, who is one of the Athletics' top minor league prospects.
Donaldson missed 38 games with a right calf injury this season, but since coming off the disabled list on May 26, he has four home runs and seven RBIs in nine games.
Donaldson went 1-for-4 with an RBI double on Monday in the Blue Jays' 5-3 loss to Oakland.
"I'm very confident in it right now," Donaldson said of his calf. "It feels very good, so I'm just kind of going with that and making sure that I'm doing the basic maintenance that's needed for it."
The A's are in a stretch of series against some of baseball's most powerful lineups. They lost two of three against the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians -- both on the road -- then lost two of three to the Washington Nationals in Oakland.
Now the powerful Blue Jays are in town, but the A's used two home runs and five RBIs from Ryon Healy to win the series opener.
"You know offensively they're always going to be a challenge, that you have to pitch well to beat these guys, and you have to swing the bats and score some runs, too," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It's been a quality team. It has been for a while."
Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada will face A's righty Jesse Hahn in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
Hahn (1-4, 3.81 ERA) will be reinstated from the disabled list and make his first start since May 23, when a strained right triceps and a drop in velocity forced him out in the third inning of an 11-9 loss to Miami. He made one rehab start for Class A Stockton on Wednesday and had his typical 90-95 mph velocity.
Hahn, who will face Toronto for the first time in his career, has allowed one home run over 49 2/3 major league innings this year.
Estrada (4-3, 3.86 ERA) will try to bounce back from a rough start against the Yankees on Thursday. He gave up seven runs -- four of them in the first inning -- on nine hits, including two home runs, over 3 2/3 innings in a 12-2 loss. Much of the damage New York did against Estrada came when he left changeups high in the strike zone.
"I was just inconsistent," Estrada said after the loss. "The good (changeups) I threw got swings and misses. The bad ones I threw got hit. (The changeup) might be one of the easiest pitches to hit when it's not down. That's basically what happened. I just was missing my spots. I didn't really use my fastball that well either. It was just one of those outings. Chalk it up as that, move on and get ready for the next one."