McDonald sharpened skills while on rehab stint

McDonald sharpened skills while on rehab stint

McDonald sharpened skills while on rehab stint
ST. PETERSBURG -- Perhaps it was only fitting that Darnell McDonald resurfaced with the Red Sox on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. That was the venue where the likeable backup outfielder nearly disappeared last May, with manager Terry Francona telling him after a win that he was going to be designated for assignment.

That DFA never happened, because Jacoby Ellsbury suffered a recurring rib injury. And 13 months later, when it seemed McDonald's roster spot could again be in jeopardy, he survived again.

The Red Sox activated him from the 15-day disabled list and optioned infielder/outfielder Drew Sutton to Triple-A Pawtucket.

McDonald was placed on the DL on May 26 with a left quadriceps strain, but he spent most of the last couple of weeks playing for Pawtucket and resharpening some of the skills that had faded as he sat on Boston's bench.

"I hit my way off the island," kidded McDonald, who hit .345 with two homers and 11 RBIs for Pawtucket.

The day McDonald went on the DL, Francona said that the outfielder would take a few days off with his injury, then play some in the Minors and the team would have some "decisions to make."

The decision was to bring McDonald back into the mix.

"Actually, what was a little bit good about this was through no fault of his own, he hadn't played much," Francona said. "[Mike Cameron] got a lot of those starts. The second righty wasn't playing very much. [Jacoby Ellsbury] was doing so well. The thinking was, let Mac get down there and get some at-bats, it will probably end up being really good for him. I think Mac was smart enough to take advantage of that."

While Cameron still figures to be Boston's first outfielder off the bench, McDonald will likely get a start on Thursday night against tough lefty David Price.

"It was good to get at-bats," said McDonald. "I didn't want to go back and go through the motions. I wanted to play and work on the things that are going to prepare me to play at this level -- getting my body ready and at game speed, moving around. It was productive all the way around."

Though McDonald was hopeful he would be back, he knows better than just about anyone that there are no guarantees.

"It's just another reason you can't take anything for granted," McDonald said. "It's the story of my career. I'll just take the same approach: Work hard and enjoy every day."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.