TORONTO — As Josh Donaldson walked closer to the batter’s box, the crowd at the Rogers Centre on Friday got louder and louder, roaring in appreciation.
Most stood, cheering especially as Donaldson took a moment to tip his helmet back to them in appreciation. It played out much the same the next two days with Donaldson, the former Blue Jays star who now plays third base for the Twins, receiving a big ovation from the crowd the first time he strode to the plate, though he didn’t doff his helmet either of the next two days.
“From day one, since I was traded over here to Toronto, the fans have received me well,” Donaldson said. “And since I’ve left, they’ve always shown their appreciation for me, and I’ve tried to return that to them as well. I can’t lie, it’s nice to get back here playing in front of these fans and in this stadium that had so many good memories.”
It was in Toronto where Donaldson had some of the best years of his career, taking home the American League Most Valuable Player Award as a Blue Jay in 2015. Blue Jays fans have that fresh in their memories: As Donaldson stepped into the box this weekend, he was often treated to chants of “MVP.”
Donaldson was twice an all-star while playing in Toronto, and helped lead the Blue Jays to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The 2015 team won the AL East and made it to the AL Championship Series before falling to the Kansas City Royals. They nabbed a wild card the next year, beating the Baltimore Orioles in the one-game showdown before falling to the Texas Rangers in the AL Division Series. His Blue Jays tenure, which began in 2015, ended during the 2018 season when he was traded to Cleveland.
“It’s special,” Donaldson said. “Toronto’s a special place, the fans are special. … When it’s packed, this place is kind of hard to top.”
Donaldson relived some good times at the Rogers Centre over the weekend, hitting a home run in each of the first two games, both blasts receiving a mixed reaction — some cheers, some boos, from the Toronto faithful. Unlike his first trip back in 2019, with the Braves in which he went 0-for-7 in two games, Donaldson finished this trip with three hits and three runs scored.
He capped off his return to the Rogers Centre by meeting Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. behind home plate as the two signed and then exchanged jerseys.
“Everything that JD did while he was here, I don’t think a speck of that was forgotten,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They treated him as if this is the first time they’ve seen him in a long time and they wanted to let him know … just how they remember him and just what he did for this team. He’s one of the best players that this team, this organization, has ever had, that they’ve ever seen, and they let us hear it — and they let us hear it actually all three games.”
Joe Ryan is listed as the Twins’ probable starting pitcher for Wednesday against the Cubs, which would be his first start since taking a comebacker off his wrist on Tuesday. … Griffin Jax is scheduled to start the first game of the series after Monday’s off day. … Baldelli said the plan is to have catcher Mitch Garver (back) meet the team in Chicago. Garver has been with the Triple-A Saints in Indianapolis this weekend on a rehab assignment.