Blue Jays activate Donaldson, Tulowitzki

TORONTO — The injury-plagued Toronto Blue Jays received some welcome relief Friday as two of the team’s star players returned after extended absences.

Third baseman Josh Donaldson and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki were activated from the disabled list before the opener of a weekend series against the Texas Rangers.

“They’re two huge parts of our team,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “We feel good. We survived their absence anyway. We didn’t totally disappear, so we’ll see. At least our lineup looks like it was supposed to look. We’ll see if we can do anything with it.”

After a disastrous April, the Blue Jays have looked much better in May. They took a 21-26 record and three-game winning streak into Friday night’s game.

“These guys did a nice job holding it together,” Tulowitzki said at an availability during batting practice. “No one ran away with the division, not like anybody does this early.

“But there’s definitely an opportunity out there and hopefully with this veteran ballclub we can make the most of it.”

Donaldson, the 2015 American League most valuable player, missed six weeks with a calf injury. Tulowitzki, a five-time all-star, missed five weeks with a hamstring injury.

Donaldson returned to his usual No. 2 spot in the batting order while Tulowitzki was slotted in the No. 7 position.

“We’ve been waiting on this day,” Gibbons said. “It’s kind of nice that they’ll both be back together. Really these are two key parts of how the team was put together. I feel good about what the other guys did holding down the fort.

“We’re still naturally not where we wanted to be anyway, but I think we could have very easily disappeared. But those other guys played so good.”

The Blue Jays also optioned right-hander Cesar Valdez to triple-A Buffalo on Friday.

Donaldson hit 37 homers last year and drove in 99 runs while Tulowitzki had 24 homers and 79 RBIs. Backups Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney handled most of the action on the left side of the infield while they were out.

A number of prominent Toronto players have spent time on the disabled list at various points this season.

In addition to Tulowitzki and Donaldson, catcher Russell Martin, slugger Kendrys Morales and outfielder Steve Pearce have been on the DL along with pitchers Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Francisco Liriano and Roberto Osuna.

After the series against the Rangers, Toronto will play a three-game interleague set against the Cincinnati Reds before closing out the 10-game homestand against the New York Yankees.

The Blue Jays’ rotation is set through Monday but a spot starter may be needed for Tuesday.

Gibbons said that Liriano (shoulder) was scheduled to pitch for the Bisons on Sunday in Charlotte and that Happ (elbow) could return in a limited role as early as Tuesday.

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