Yankees’ Josh Donaldson ignoring bad start, plans to ‘grind it out’

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NEW YORK — Josh Donaldson does his best to not remind himself of the poor first four months with the Yankees. He tries to avoid seeing his numbers when he’s at the plate and they’re blasting back at him from the giant scoreboard in center field at Yankee Stadium.

“You try not to,” he said before Monday’s 7-2 win over the Mariners. “It’s there. It’s on the big screen. You see it.”

Still, the 12-year veteran hasn’t lost hope that he can turn his season around and be the impact middle-of-the-order bat the Yankees envisioned when they traded for him at the start of spring training.

“I’m definitely not going to get any better focusing on (the numbers),” he said. “I’m going to get better by continuing to grind it out and get in the cage and spend time in there.”

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Donaldson went 1-for-3 with a walk Monday, raising his average to .218. He’s hit only nine home runs and driven in 35 runs while posting a .671 OPS — far below the .872 career mark he had entering the season.

Donaldson’s defense has been excellent. His seven Outs Above Average is the fourth-best in the majors, according to Baseball Savant.

But when the Yankees agreed to take on the $25 million he’s due this year and next year, they thought they were getting a little bit more offensively.

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No doubt, he’s working at it.

“It’s definitely been a grind,” Donaldson said, “that’s for sure. Trying to put it all together consistently this year. But I’ve continued to work and I feel like every day, it’s getting closer for me.”

The Yankees haven’t given up on him.

“I think he’s been a little in between, kind of searching,” manager Aaron Boone said Sunday. “I absolutely feel like physically he’s still really special. He has all the bat speed, the physical traits that have made him kind of a wrecking ball offensively. I just think that for different reasons he’s had a hard time getting into that groove, whether it’s just a little in-between with his moves.”

The 36-year-old three-time All-Star pointed to Sunday as a sign that he could be figuring it out. In all four of his at-bats, he posted exit velocities of greater than 90 mph.

Over the weekend, Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson pointed out that Donaldson has been pitched differently this year than he has at any other point in his career. For example, just 50.7% of the pitches he’s seen have been fastballs, compared to 56.6% in 2021 and 57.7% in 2020.

“I think that’s correlated to probably me not hitting the off-speed as well as I have in the past,” said Donaldson, who has hit just .227 vs. off-speed pitches this year compared to the .283 mark he put up last year.

“Guys have executed pitches on me. There’s been times where I hit balls hard and it goes at guys and it’s all part of the game. But for me, personally, my goal is how many times in a game do I feel like I’m able to put a quality swing on the pitch or whenever I do have a pitch to hit, and (Sunday) I feel like I was able to do that four times.”

Donaldson said he’s going to continue to not look at his numbers.

“But the reality is you want to have results,” he said. “At the end of the day, for us to get those results that we want, it’s about the process we go through to get those and what we understand for that process and that’s ultimately the goal each and every day.”

Said Boone, “There’s no question in my mind he’s got that big long streak (hot) streak ahead he’s going to get it rolling and then, look out. I say that because I feel like physically I’m seeing — we’re seeing — all the things that still make him special.”

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Brendan Kuty may be reached at [email protected].

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