A's endorse Donaldson as tough cookie

 * His former Oakland A's teammates give Josh Donaldson two thumbs up. ....  

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By Bob Elliott

MESA, Az. _ He’s hard nosed.

He’s the ultra competitor.

He wants to win.

His glove will impress those who have not seen him on a regular basis.

Yeah, yeah we knew all that about Brett Lawrie since the day he was drafted.

Did you hear about the Lindbergh baby?

Hold on a second ... these Oakland A’s at Hohokam Stadium were not talking about their new teammate, third baseman Lawrie, rather they were describing former teammate third baseman Josh Donaldson.

The arm who has made the most starts in an A’s uniform since manager Bob Melvin in the midst of the 2011 is Sonny Gray, 24, who made his debut July 10, 2013 (43 starts). Of the top five names Melvin has written into his lineup in his 585 games ago only two remain Coco Crisp (397 games) and Josh Reddick (365). Gone are Brandon Moss, Yeonis Cespedes and Donaldson, along with a whole bunch of the 109 players and 57 pitchers Melvin has used.

We did find some former Donaldson teammates.

In college Eric Sogard played for the Arizona State Sun Devils, Donaldson was an Auburn Tiger. (“He’ll probably say Auburn was better, they beat us two of three our junior year, he hit three homers in the three-game series against us,” said Sogard.)

Donaldson was selected in the first round (48th over-all) by the Chicago Cubs in 2007, while Sogard was drafted 33 picks later in the second by the San Diego Padres. They played against each other in the minors and together at triple-A Sacramento, after Donaldson was acquired in the Rich Harden deal.

“Josh is a great teammate, lays it on the line every game,” Sogard said. “His swing generates so much power. He really studied Jose Bautista’s swing.”

Catcher Stephen Vogt describes Donaldson as a hard-nosed, super star, born to lead.

“What blows my mind -- and I mean he hits the ball hard, he carried us the second half -- is his defence,`said Vogt. “People will love his range. Fans in Oakland complained about his throwing errors, but he was throwing after fielding balls no one in the league reaches.”

The most amazing thing anyone ever saw Donaldson do with the glove or the bat?

Right fielder Josh Reddick remembers seeing Donaldson dive to his right, spin and from his butt throw a strike to second starting a 5-4-3 double play.

Right-hander A.J. Griffin picks the tarp catch.

The Texas Rangers were at O.co Coliseum, with the American League West division on the line on Sept. 3, 2013. With one out in the sixth, A’s Jerry Blevins popped up David Murphy down the left field line. Off the bat it was either into the seats or a harmless foul which wouldn’t be caught.

Donaldson was off an running ... seven, eight, nine strides at break neck speed. Then a stutter step. Then a dive over the New Era tarp.

“He learned how much room he had,” said Sogard, “our park has a lot of foul ground, but every park has limits.”

Donaldson made a backhanded grab, his glove bouncing off the front rail, his glove going into the seats as he fell into the coffin-like, crevasse between the wall and the tarp.

Donaldson held up his mitt.

Care for anything?

“One vanilla snow cone ... large scoop please.”

It was a Derek Jeter style catch without the blood.

“Not a lot was said in the dugout .. mostly open mouths, it was shock and awe when we saw the replays,” said Sogard. Said Griffin: “we were all so blown away by the play.”

Vogt is amazed by Donaldson’s oppositte field power.

“I’ve seen hit home runs to right field at our place ... late,” said Vogt. Now going deep late in Oakland is not easy.

We remember Xavier Hernandez picking up his first win for the Jays in 1989 in a 4-2 13-inning win. He recorded the first out (a Mark McGwire fly to the track) and David Wells got the final two (a Dave Parker drive to the wall). All anyone could talk about was how lucky the Jays were that the balls weren’t hit an hour or so earlier. Or the Jays would have lost because the warning track drives would have been homers.

“The heavy air is a combination of the Bay Area mist and Mt. Davis,” said Vogt.

Mt. Davis is the outfield seats added to the baseball stadium by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.

Vogt is impressed by the collection of hitters that the Jays have assembled: Edwin Encarnacion, Bautista and Donaldson.

“I don’t know in what order they are going to put them, but you have those three -- plus Russell Martin,” said Vogt.

Reddick says all the right things about Donaldson and adds “He has days when he’s loud (in the clubhouse) like any of us, most of his rants aren’t baseball related. He always has a story on a subject and whether it’s good or bad he’s going to tell it.”

Griffin said that Donaldson is a “big personality, who likes to joke around,” and forecasts he will become a fan fave.

Vogt predicts away from the mist and Mt. Davis, Donaldson will hit 35 homers with at the Rogers Centre as his home park. He hit 29 last year.