SCRAP THE FLAP

Ever since ditched his funky hel­met, he has been the Bringer of Rain of old

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS - STEVE BUFFERY sbuffery@post­media.com @Beez­er­sun

A few weeks ago, af­ter ap­pear­ing at the plate with a pro­tec­tive flap at­tached to his bat­ting hel­met, Blue Jays third base­man Josh Don­ald­son was asked what the deal was with the new piece of equip­ment.

Don­ald­son seemed a bit peeved. He said that when a player con­stantly sees pitches com­ing at him that are high and in­side, you have to take mea­sures to pro­tect yourself.

So, for a few games, he wore the flap. Then he took it off, then he put it on, and now it’s off again.

And guess what? Don­ald­son has been hit­ting the leather off the ball re­cently and it ap­pears that the flap is gone for good. He has de­cided he’ll give up more pro­tec­tion for more pro­duc­tion.

The Bringer of Rain has hit home runs in three straight games and four in his past six af­ter hit­ting two to­tal in his pre­vi­ous 39 games. He also walked twice on Wed­nes­day in Toronto’s 5-1 vic­tory over the White Sox and has drawn 22 walks since the start of July. He has drawn 16 of those free passes against starters, the most in the Ma­jor Leagues.

“Just stay­ing dis­ci­plined to my plan and re­ally grind­ing out at-bats,” Don­ald­son said when asked about his re­cent string of walks. “There’s been sev­eral times where I got down to 0-2 and was able to grind it out and walk out of that, and that’s a win for me. And re­ally just go­ing up there and fo­cus­ing on hav­ing real good at-bats.”

Ob­vi­ously, the Jays need the Don­ald­son of old to have any chance of snag­ging a wild-card spot, as slim as that may be. That’s one of the rea­sons he de­cided to get rid of the flap.

“You know, I thought there was a cou­ple of times when I had it on there, it was block­ing me out of a cou­ple of pitches or I was hav­ing to turn my head in a cer­tain man­ner in or­der to get a good look at the pitcher,” Don­ald­son said.

“I tried to make some ad­just­ments on it. It re­ally wasn’t work­ing as far as Josh Don­ald­son says his hel­met with the flap was caus­ing him to miss some pitches. mov­ing the flap down. So I was just like, ‘To heck with it. I’m just go­ing to get my other hel­met and go from there.’ “Some pitch­ers who were throw­ing kind of across their body that’s out­side the nor­mal lane that you have to look in,” ex­plained Don­ald­son, when asked to elab­o­rate on what pitches he was miss­ing. “It was mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for me be­cause I feel was hav­ing to al­most look around it at times.”

Give him credit. Don­ald­son ob­vi­ously felt too many pitches were com­ing to­ward his head that he de­cided to wear a flap. But his drive to pro­duce at the plate and help the team has over­rid­den safety con­cerns.

Don­ald­son also made some great defensive plays this week at Guar­an­teed Rate Field, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of bare-handed snares fol­lowed by hard throws to first for outs, another part of his game he’s been work­ing to im­prove. Fol­low­ing last month’s all-star break, the Jays em­barked on a 10-day road trip be­fore fi­nally re­turn­ing home on July 24.

“I was able to put in some work when we got back to Toronto,” said Don­ald­son. “We went on a 10-day road trip and it’s dif­fi­cult to get ap­pro­pri­ate work that we need be­cause we’re on the road and it’s not our field. That be­ing said, I felt that get­ting some ex­tra work, some early work out there and re­ally fo­cussing on the de­fence re­ally helped.

“And (Justin) Smoak made an ex­cel­lent pick for me on the other end of it (first base). There’s been a few times this year — prob­a­bly 4-5 times ac­tu­ally — where I made a nice play and ei­ther tried to make a play out of some­thing that I shouldn’t have or just made a bad throw, and right now I’m just do­ing pretty de­cent mak­ing good throws and it helps when you don’t make a good throw Smoak is able pick me up.”

Smoak is one of the bet­ter field­ing first base­men in base­ball on top of the ca­reer sea­son he’s hav­ing at the plate.

The way he’s swing­ing the bat right now, Don­ald­son was one of the few Jays who prob­a­bly would have pre­ferred a game on Thurs­day rather than a day off be­fore Toronto opens a three­game se­ries in Hous­ton.

The Jays just played 20 games in a row and they ap­pear to be a tired team. Man­ager John Gib­bons said they are.

“Yeah, it’s been a lot of games in a row (but) I don’t know how much we need (a day off),” Don­ald­son said. “I’m guess­ing if Gibby thinks we need it, then we prob­a­bly need one. But I feel pretty good per­son­ally and look­ing for­ward to start­ing the se­ries in Hous­ton.”

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