Injured Blue Jays players making progress

Pearce expected to play in field Sunday; Donaldson, Travis face Minors pitching

Injured Blue Jays players making progress

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- At times, it has seemed like a glacial pace. But Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said three of his expected lineup cornerstones -- first baseman/left fielder Steve Pearce, third baseman Josh Donaldson and second baseman Devon Travis -- are making acceptable progress.

Pearce, a free agent signed to a two-year contract after undergoing offseason elbow surgery, is scheduled to make his spring debut in the field at first base on Sunday against the Pirates in Bradenton. Gibbons said he hasn't ruled out the possibility of Pearce serving as the Opening Day left fielder.

Pearce's RBI single

Pearce has hit .278 in 18 at-bats this spring as a designated hitter. Pearce's versatility was a major reason why the Blue Jays pursued him in the offseason. In a pinch, he can also play second base.

"I don't see why not,'' Gibbons said when asked if Pearce was still in play for left-field duty. "Everything [the medical staff] tells you [is positive] when he's playing catch and stuff.

"You don't want to jump the gun and have a setback, and he hasn't done that. Once Sunday comes, I think he'd be good to go after that.''

Meanwhile, Donaldson (calf strain) and Travis (bruised right knee) continue to hit against Minor League pitching and are "moving in the right direction'' toward making their Grapefruit League debuts, according to Gibbons.

Travis did some baserunning earlier Friday on the back fields at the Blue Jays' Dunedin home base. Gibbons said Travis is not yet ready to run in a game situation, but hasn't ruled him out as the Opening Day second baseman.

Travis' status bears watching because his injuries have mounted. He missed the first 47 games of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery. A hand injury cost him a few games in August. He suffered a knee injury in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series that knocked him out of the playoffs.

Donaldson, the 2015 American League Most Valuable Player who had 37 home runs and 99 RBIs last season, has said he expects to play in some Grapefruit League games before the Blue Jays break camp.

Thursday night, he took in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 5-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa's Amalie Arena.

"He's getting closer,'' Gibbons said. "We don't want to put a date on it in case it doesn't happen, but we don't think it's too far off.

"He goes into the batting cage and he looks fine. It's just a matter of running. That's the only thing that's holding him [back] right now. He could probably go out there and run. It's one of those things. Do you want to push it quick and risk a setback?''

Joey Johnston is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Blue Jays on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.