CLEVELAND — The one home run that Josh Donaldson has hit since May 19 seems to indicate that his power is lacking, perhaps a result of the shoulder injury that forced him to receive a cortisone shot after he went on the COVID injured list.
But though Donaldson had just a .556 OPS and 30 strikeouts in his past 104 plate appearances, hitting coach Dillon Lawson said there are reasons to believe the third baseman might soon be productive again.
“He still has great bat speed, we know that,’’ Lawson said Friday at Progressive Field, before the Yankees’ scheduled series opener against the Guardians was postponed by rain. “He still has power, it’s just the results haven’t come. That’s the most encouraging thing because you know he can get to the other side. It’s not that the power’s been lost, he just needs to maximize his bat speed and exit velocity with the right kind of ball flight. At times, he’s putting it on the ground or popping it up, so he’s working on his bat-path and swing plane.”
In the meantime, Donaldson has a career-low .386 slugging percentage, but as Lawson notes, his expected slugging percentage, according to Baseball Savant, is .460.
His exit velocity has dipped from 94.1 mph a year ago to 91.5 mph this season, but the numbers are in line with much of the rest of his career.
But Donaldson is also swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone than ever before.
“He’s gone through those periods before and comes out of it,’’ Lawson said. “That’s why he has the contract he has and his career numbers.”
The Yankees would like a return on their investment now after they traded Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela to Minnesota in exchange for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and catcher Ben Rortvedt — in addition to Donaldson and the $50 million he had remaining on the final two years of his contract.
“A lot of his numbers are very consistent to where they normally are,’’ Lawson said. “It’s not even the All-Star break and winning eases a lot of worries.”
For now, though, Donaldson is on pace for his worst full season in the majors.
Reliever Miguel Castro was placed on the paternity list Friday, opening a roster spot for Aroldis Chapman to be activated off the IL. Manager Aaron Boone said he expected Castro to rejoin the team in Pittsburgh, where the Yankees will open a series on Tuesday.
Jonathan Loaisiga (right shoulder inflammation) will throw live batting practice on Saturday in Tampa — his first time facing hitters since going on the IL on May 25.
Domingo German (right shoulder impingement) is set to make his third rehab appearance on Sunday with Double-A Somerset. The right-hander has made two starts so far, throwing a combined 6 ¹/₃ scoreless innings, while building up to 43 pitches in his last outing.