Ahead of the season, the Toronto Blue Jays identified the key factor in contending this year – good health.
Well, bad news.
On Day 2 of the season, the Jays announced their US$20-million shortstop will be reupholstered from the ground up and, according to their general manager, their all-star third baseman is suffering from a health problem that "is not a medical issue."
What does that leave then? Witchcraft?
The immediate issue is shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who will undergo surgery on both heels Monday to remove bone spurs. This follows a separate and apparently unrelated ankle surgery in the off-season.
Jays general manager Ross Atkins tried to see the bright side – "He could be playing in as early as eight weeks." Given Tulowitzki's recent health history, any prognosis that ends with Tulowitzki playing baseball – never mind fully healthy – seems optimistic.
At 33, Tulowitzki has missed significant time in three of his past six seasons. He has three years and nearly US$60-million remaining on his contract.
This is all headed in an obvious direction, and it is not up.
The case of Josh Donaldson is less clear.
Donaldson took most of spring training off, but insisted he was feeling good overall. A month ago, he experienced what manager John Gibbons called a "hanging" right shoulder. One presumes that's not a medical term.
In Thursday's home opener, Donaldson could only just barely throw the ball from third to first.
What had been "hanging" was now being described as "dead arm."
"I've been feeling it a little bit all spring," Donaldson said after the game. "I don't have any pain or anything. It's just about getting the strength back."
Confusingly, there seems to be no treatment for Donaldson's problem (although the player himself talked about "programs we have to get there.")
By Friday, we had progressed from "hanging" to "dead arm" to "dead-arm phase" – Atkins's term. Donaldson was moved to designated hitter, where the Jays said he will remain "for now."
"For dead-arm phase, it really is just working through it," the GM said. "Physically and structurally, he's fine."
If you've been around long enough, you started getting bad flashbacks to Jays closer B.J. Ryan and the back problem that wasn't a problem, and continued not being a problem right up until it ended his career.
There's no suggestion that Donaldson's shoulder problem is anywhere near that bad, but all the cloak and daggers does tend to create an air of mystery.
Atkins said it will be left to Donaldson to determine how able he is to perform. Since Donaldson is hoping for a nine-figure windfall in free agency this fall, there's only one thing he's going to say when asked if he wants to play – "Yes, please."
Apparently, Donaldson's issue may heal itself, and does not impede his swing. He threw in practice on Friday, though he did so before batting practice so that no one could see him doing it.
Atkins called Donaldson's return to complete health "a day-to-day" issue.
"It could be a week. It could be significantly more. It could be less," Atkins said.
Given the Jays' recent luck with this kind of thing, which way would you bet?