Donaldson returns to Oakland as an All-Star with Blue Jays
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Josh Donaldson had a little extra time to reflect on his tenure with the Athletics during his first trip back to the aging Oakland Coliseum.
Toronto’s All-Star third baseman spent about two hours in a taxi from San Francisco to Oakland on Tuesday because his driver apparently took a few failed “shortcuts.” Finally, Donaldson saw the stadium’s new video boards as the car approached and thought back to his old memories of playing for the green and gold.
“When I pulled up, my heart started fluttering a little bit seeing this place,” Donaldson said, wearing his Blue Jays uniform in the visitor’s dugout.
No doubt Donaldson felt some emotions in his return to Oakland, where the Blue Jays and A’s were meeting for the first time since the offseason trade that reshaped their rosters.
In a surprising move Nov. 28, the A’s sent Donaldson to Toronto for third baseman Brett Lawrie, right-hander Kendall Graveman, lefty Sean Nolin and minor league shortstop Franklin Barreto.
“Maybe a little incentive there,” Donaldson quipped.
Donaldson was cheered during pregame introductions and pulled the bill of his batting helmet down to acknowledge the crowd when he was announced at the plate in the first inning. He finished 2 for 5 with two doubles, one RBI and a throwing error in Toronto’s 7-1 series-opening win.
Graveman (6-6) gave up six runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings for Oakland.
Before the game, Donaldson said he has “zero animosity” toward the A’s. He recalls only fond memories of his four seasons with the team — “minus some flooding a couple times” in the clubhouse — and is thankful for the opportunity the A’s gave him.
But Donaldson admitted the move by A’s general manager Billy Beane to break up a club that had made the playoffs three straight seasons left him stunned.
“It probably took me two or three weeks at least to kind of let it soak in. It was definitely hard,” Donaldson said. “There was definitely some emotions going on because a lot of the guys that were here, we’ve been through so much together, we’ve kind of built what we thought was a core and really some foundations.
“And then when you get traded or whatever you want to say, you’re definitely going to be hurt a little bit. But you’ve got to understand that this game’s a business and the players aren’t always making the decisions to go or leave.”
Oakland, which won the AL West in 2012 and 2013, lost by 10 games to the big-spending Los Angeles Angels last season. The A’s were then eliminated 9-8 in 12 innings in the one-game AL wild card at Kansas City.
Donaldson batted .268 with 63 home runs and 228 RBIs in 405 games with the A’s and was one of the most positives presences in the clubhouse.
“He was instrumental in the success here,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He came a long way from where he started in this organization. He was basically a catcher in the minor leagues and ends up being an All-Star third baseman.”
Donaldson’s departure has been arguably the most questionable one Beane made over the summer. He also traded Brandon Moss, Derek Norris and Jeff Samardzija and lost Jon Lester and Jed Lowrie in free agency.
Donaldson has had no trouble adjusting to his new surroundings.
Entering Tuesday’s game, Donaldson was leading the Blue Jays with 22 homers. He had a .288 batting average, .351 on-base percentage and 62 RBIs, which was behind only Jose Bautista (63) for the team lead.
The 29-year-old Donaldson received more than 14 million votes for the All-Star Game — a major league record — to earn the start at third base for the AL. He also competed in the Home Run Derby.
While he’s excited about the Blue Jays’ potential now, Donaldson still cherishes his time in Oakland. He even saved a couple A’s jerseys, including an All-Star jersey, and hung them in his “man cave” at home.
He also said about the series with Oakland that there was “no way I can treat this like another three games.”
“I still care about a lot of guys that are out there on this team and this field, including the coaching staff,” Donaldson said. “It’s still one of those things I’m still pulling for those guys even though I’m not there. I want them to do well. Just not this week.”
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP