Now that Opening Day has came and gone, it's that time of the year when everyone resists making sweeping rationalizations based on small samples. Still, while the numbers and results themselves aren't reliable, there are things we can observe and comment on with good reason.
Donaldson has been one of the best at defending the hot corner for years. Defensive metrics are notoriously untrustworthy, so make of this what you will, but his glove has been worth 51 runs saved for his career, per Baseball Reference. Yet on Thursday, Donaldson's throws lacked zip and distance, resulting in lollipops and lame bouncers befitting a stretched second baseman.
Above is an example. Yes, Donaldson makes a fine sprawling snag and gets the out. But his throw bounces just over halfway to the bag, and that permits New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez to make it a close play. Normally, Donaldson would've zipped the ball over and beaten Sanchez by steps.
Donaldson's throws were so uncharacteristic that manager John Gibbons was asked about them after the Jays' loss to the New York Yankees. Gibbons admitted Donaldson is playing hurt:
Early in spring, we had heard that Josh Donaldson had a sore right shoulder. Keeping a close eye, never once did we see him uncork a throw with serious zip on it. I'd been hoping he was just taking it easy in pre-season. Maybe that wasn't the case. #Bluejays— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) March 29, 2018
Credit Donaldson for wanting to remain in the lineup -- and, to be clear, the Jays need his bat -- but this could become a problem for Toronto. There's nothing stopping opposing teams from testing Donaldson's sore wing by bunting on him. Even if teams don't take active advantage of Donaldson, his limited throwing will hamstring the Blue Jays defensively -- especially on around-the-horn double-play opportunities.
The Jays don't have an easy solution to this problem. Inserting Yangervis Solarte at the hot corner would make sense, except the Jays need Donaldson's bat in the lineup. If GIbbons were to use him at DH, that necessitates taking out Kendrys Morales. The Jays can't shift Donaldson to first base, either, lest they remove Justin Smoak from the equation. The only options, then, are for the Jays to let Donaldson play through his injury, or to place him on the DL and hope he heals quickly. For the time being, anyway, it seems like they'll take the first route.
Just don't be surprised if Donaldson's bum arm becomes a bigger story in the days to come.