TORONTO - Josh Donaldson estimates he's watched thousands of hours of Jose Bautista game tape, modelling his swing — right down to the leg kick — after the Toronto Blue Jays' star right-fielder.
The two became teammates in a late-night trade Friday, creating what Donaldson said could be the most potent lineup in Major League Baseball this season.
"I spoke to (Bautista) at the all-star game and let him know I've studied a lot of his work, and really appreciate what he's accomplished up to this point in his career," Donaldson said on a conference call Saturday.
The third baseman called Bautista one of the best outfielders and hitters in all of baseball.
"I feel like this team is going to be so talented," he said. "It's going to be nice, and it's also going to be interesting to see what happens because I feel like it's going to be a pretty fun year."
The 28-year-old was home simultaneously playing some "old-school" "Mortal Kombat" and watching the Golf Channel on Friday night, when his phone alerted him to the news. He was headed to Toronto in a shocking deal that sent Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie, plus shortstop Franklin Barreto and pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman, to the Oakland Athletics.
"My phone started exploding. I decided to check it out," Donaldson said. "The first text I see is 'Blue Jays' I was like 'Yup, I just got traded.'"
The 28-year-old Donaldson virtually came out of nowhere in 2012, and finished eighth in AL MVP voting this year after hitting .255 for Oakland with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs. A right-handed hitter, Donaldson had a .342 on-base percentage while finishing sixth in the American League with 76 walks. He has a career batting average of .268 with 63 home runs and 228 RBIs and a .347 on-base percentage in 405 games.
Donaldson said the trade was "a little bit ahead of schedule," but he hopes to bring a habit of winning to Toronto.
"Ever since I was five years old, my teams have won," the all-star said. "I'm not saying that it's necessarily just me that's causing that, but I think there's a mentality about winning. I just hope to be able to come in and instil that winning mentality."
Donaldson already had fond feelings for Toronto after making his debut in the majors here in 2010, recording his first major league hit, a two-run home run, at Rogers Centre.
"I remember Toronto was a great place, a great city, it's just one of those melting pots, you kind of have a little bit of everything in Toronto," he said. "Every time I've been there it's been very beautiful and I've enjoyed my time there."
Donaldson said he believes that the bold move by Alex Anthopoulos shows the Jays GM is determined to turn the team around immediately.
Last week, Anthopoulos signed star catcher Russell Martin as a free agent.
"I 100 per cent can say they're trying to win right now," Donaldson said. "What they're also trying to do is prepare themselves for the future, and Russell Martin has a long-term deal. . . With (Marcus) Stroman and a couple of guys on that staff, they have a young nucleus of pitchers who are very talented. So I definitely think the elements are there to win, it's just about going out there and playing the game."
Donaldson, known also for his sure-handed, athletic defending, said playing on the punishing turf of Rogers Centre could take some getting used to after the grass of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
He has a bit of experience with Toronto's turf after playing a three-game series here. He switched up his cleats between hitting and playing defence, to help soften some of the pounding.
"It helped, because the third game I played there in a row, I was definitely starting to feel that I was playing on turf," Donaldson said. "And then whenever I decided 'Hey, I'm going to start changing my shoes from defence to offence,' it really made a significant difference in how my body was feeling.
"So, it's going to take some getting used to. I definitely believe that I can do it and I will do it. So I really think it will be a non-issue."
Hours after the deal, Donaldson said he was still a little shocked.
"But I tell you what," he said. "Somebody I'd seen on Twitter or something the other day, somebody had put me in one of those Toronto Blue Jays uniforms, the all-whites, and I tell you what, those uniforms are pretty sexy."
Lawrie, meanwhile, sent a note to Toronto fans via Twitter on Saturday.
"You fans made my time in Toronto unforgettable," the native of Langley, B.C., said in a note posted as a photo. "I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to play in my own backyard with the (Maple Leaf) on my chest every day. It was a blessing and it will be truly missed!"
"New chapter is upon me," he added, "and I intend to make it worth it!!!!!"