Josh Donaldson credits new teammate Jose Bautista for breakout

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Josh Donaldson put himself on the map in 2013 with the Athletics when he put up an .883 OPS while slugging 24 home runs and compiling 8.0 WAR (per Baseball Reference). He cemented his status as one of the game’s most productive third basemen this past season, when he hit 29 homers and was worth 7.4 WAR.

Donaldson wasn’t always viewed so highly. He repeated Triple-A twice after his initial stint in Sacramento in 2010. What helped him break out? He emulated Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista who, like Donaldson, didn’t break out until his late 20’s. Via Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star:

“I probably watched thousands of hours of Bautista swinging,” says Donaldson, whose uses a similar leg kick to Bautista to generate power. “We don’t do everything exactly the same, but what I try to do is I try to see what he was successful with, and a couple other guys in the big leagues who were very successful, and try to (recreate) it into something of my own.”

Donaldson also saw something of a kindred career in Bautista, also a late-blooming star. “He was somewhat of a journeyman major leaguer until he landed in Toronto and I was kind of almost being labeled as a 4-A/Triple-A guy and then kind of breaking out a little bit in 2012 towards the end of the season, and then in 2013 kind of putting it together.”

Now the two, together, make up part of a fearsome middle of the order for the Blue Jays along with Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin. Early projections for the 2015 season see Donaldson hitting another 26 home runs with 5.6 WAR while Bautista is expected to hit 36 home runs with 5.4 WAR.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

Max Scherzer
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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.