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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The year-ago buzz around the Minnesota Twins created by signing Josh Donaldson to the franchise’s richest free agent contract was quickly quelled by the global pandemic that pared down the schedule and emptied ballparks.

Then, just one week into the abbreviated season, the third baseman’s problematic right calf flared up.

READ MORE: Twins Submit Proposal To Walz To Bring Back 10,000 To Target Field By Opening Day

Donaldson missed a full month, returned for the stretch run and aggravated the muscle right before the postseason. His debut with the Twins was all of 28 games.

This spring training, the 35-year-old has a fresh start for what he and the team are optimistic about being a complete season of power hitting, patient at-bats and superb defense at the hot corner.

Donaldson, in a video conference call Tuesday with reporters after the team’s first full-squad workout in Fort Myers, Florida, said he felt like his limited action was a “fluke ordeal” attributable to the four-month coronavirus pause prior to the midsummer restart.

“As tough as it is for me to kind of say this, you know, I wish I was a robot and I wish I could be 100% and tell you that I’m great, but at the end of the day, it’s a sport and it’s a pretty fast sport,” Donaldson said, “and sometimes things happen.”

Josh Donaldson (credit: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Three months ago, he and his partner, Briana, welcomed their daughter, Aubrey, a life enrichment far transcending any workout regimen. Nonetheless, Donaldson made time to focus on renewing strength in his legs, improving running mechanics and mobility and maintaining soft tissue health with the obvious goal of avoiding another maddening extended absence for a strain or a pull.

“Trying to get more hip drive and using my hips to accelerate through the movements to where it can take pressure off of my calves,” Donaldson said.

READ MORE: Stan Williams, Fearsome Pitcher For Dodgers & Twins, Dies At 84

The Twins have an evolving plan to keep their experienced slugger, slick fielder and emotional leader fresh entering April — and, they hope, October.

“He’s in great shape. He moves around great,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Being forced to watch from the dugout as the Twins were swept by Houston in a two-game wild card series — extending the franchise’s major league record streak to 18 straight postseason losses — was a frustrating enough experience that he’s adamant about not repeating it.

This year, Donaldson will have a new shortstop next to him in Andrelton Simmons, giving the Twins a potentially impeccable tandem on defense on the left side if both players can stay on the field.

“I’m definitely excited to play alongside of him. I think that we’ll be able to make some nice plays,” Donaldson said.

Simmons, due to a travel documentation issue, was one of four players on the 75-man list for the start of spring training unavailable for the first workout. Starting pitcher J.A. Happ, who tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, was the other notable absence.

The first-day introductions, presentations and speeches were different this time due to virus protocols, delivered via microphone to allow for proper spacing between players, but the message to the two-time defending AL Central champions didn’t change.

MORE NEWS: Twins Finalize $2M Deal With Starting Pitcher Matt Shoemaker

“It’s obviously a very optimistic day. I think there’s added optimism just knowing what kind of team we have. We have again everything we could possibly want to go out there and win a World Series, frankly.
Today’s probably the only day we’re going to say that out loud,” Baldelli said, “because now we have to go out there and play.”

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Fired Arizona Senate Aide Seeks $500,000 in Harassment Case

By BOB CHRISTIE, Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — An aide who was fired by Republican state Sen. Wendy Rogers on Wednesday filed a $500,000 claim against the state for wrongful termination and harassment he says were caused by the senator.

The claim is a required step before Michael Polloni Jr. can file a lawsuit. If the state doesn't agree to settle, Polloni can go to court. The claim is against the state, and does not name Rogers. But Polloni's attorney said he may take legal action against her later.

The move comes a day after a divided Arizona Senate's Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against Rogers, who was accused by her former assistant of berating and cursing him during a tirade, making comments about his weight, asking him to do political work on state time and to work while he was out sick recovering from the coronavirus.

The three Republicans on the panel agreed that the evidence collected during an investigation by the committee's attorney did not meet the “clear and convincing” standard required to sustain the complaint and mete out punishment to Rogers.

The two Democrats disagreed, saying there was ample evidence that Rogers yelled and cursed at the assistant and repeatedly asked him to work while he was out sick. They said dismissing the complaint would send the wrong message to other lawmakers and staff.

Polloni, 20, put his college work at Northern Arizona University on hold to take the job helping the newly elected lawmaker in December. He was fired by the Senate on Jan. 14, the day he said Rogers yelled and cursed at him. Rogers apparently played no role in his termination.

“Michael was bullied, harassed, and humiliated during his employment by Sen. Rogers,” the claim says. “She accused him of lying about being ill with COVID-19 to get out of work. She mocked his family and his faith. She attempted to force him to do work for her while he was ill and on medical leave. She discarded and damaged his personal property.

“And when Michael had recovered from the virus and was finally able to return to work and get back to the job he had put his college education on hold to pursue, Sen. Rogers assaulted him verbally and physically, and then fired him.”

In a written response to the Ethics Committee before it met Tuesday, Rogers called the allegations “a complete fabrication by an outgoing, brand new employee who worked only one official day for the state of Arizona after the swearing in of senators.”

Rogers also said the complaint contains no allegations that she either broke the law or violated Senate ethics rules.

The investigation conducted by a Senate attorney found little corroboration for many of Polloni's allegations but did locate a witness who backed his claim that Rogers yelled and cursed at him in her office the day he was fired.

Polloni's attorney, Adam Kwasman, said what Rogers and the state did to his client will impact him for years.

“The Ethics committee report plainly revealed more than sufficient evidence demonstrating ... wrongful behavior by the State of Arizona and Sen. Rogers," Kwasman said in a statement. “Mr. Polloni deserves justice for all he has endured these past months.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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