Josh Donaldson aiming to stay healthy for Twins after calf issues in 2020

Josh Donaldson #24 of the Minnesota Twins fields during an intrasquad game on July 19, 2020 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ((Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images))

There’s a different feel around the Minnesota Twins as they embark on 2021 Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla.

The franchise is coming off its second straight American League Central Division title. There’s still the cloud of winning a playoff game hanging high above, but Rocco Baldelli spoke to his team via megaphone Tuesday in their first full team meeting of having fun in Florida and playing to high expectations on a daily basis.

After COVID-19 canceled Spring Training with two weeks left last season, the Twins are anticipating 2,400 fans at Hammond Stadium for their first game on Sunday. It’ll be a sight for sore eyes.

His message to the team on Tuesday? Have fun, and focus on today.

"Just looking around and knowing we have the pieces that we need to accomplish our goals. There’s nothing that our group does not have, so it’s up to us now. Go out there and get the job done today, that’s where we left it," Baldelli said.

If the Twins are going to compete in the AL Central and make a playoff run in 2021, it centers around star third baseman Josh Donaldson and his calves staying healthy. Donaldson played in just 28 of the 60 games last year, hitting just six homers and getting 18 hits in 102 at-bats.

He sat and watched with an ailing calf while the Twins were swept by the Houston Astros in the playoffs.

"It was tough to watch the guys, that’s the first playoffs I’ve ever missed. I spent about a month after the season trying to get everything right. Just kind of figure out the program, and I feel really good going into camp right now. We’ll see how that goes," Donaldson said Tuesday.

The Twins made their free agent splash with Donaldson before the 2020 season, signing him to a four-year, $92 million contract. He’s one of the best defensive third baseman in the game, and he’s a powerful bat in the lineup.

But that’s only if he’s healthy. He attributes part of his struggles last year to COVID-19 protocols, and not having the necessary time to be ready for the season or games. He says he’s ready to for 2021, and part of this offseason involved strengthening his legs and changing his running technique to prevent more injuries.

"Last year I felt it was more kind of a fluke ordeal when it first started, dealing some of the protocols we had to go through and not having enough time to get ready for the game," Donaldson said. "But that’s baseball. I wish I was a robot and I wish could be 100 percent and tell you I’m great, but at the end of the day it’s a sport and sometimes things happen."

Donaldson was a full participant in the team’s first workout on Tuesday. He took live batting practice, and was out taking grounders in the field. It brought a smile to Baldelli’s face.

"Josh looks great. He was out there taking part in everything today. I watched him hit a few rounds of BP, took part in all of our defensive drills. He’s in great shape, he moves around great," Baldelli said. "He makes challenging plays look easy. He’ll be ready to go."

The team’s hope is that’s the case when the regular season opens in early April in Milwaukee. Donaldson acknowledged Tuesday getting through a full season, however many games that might look like, will involve getting spot duty early on.

"I’m an athlete, I want to be out there every day. But understanding that in order for me to be out there and help our team win throughout the season, there’s going to have to be some adjustments made," Donaldson said.