Darnell McDonald plays a lot of center field, and when he is on base, he is always a threat to run. Speed is an important component to his game. Therefore, taking care of his legs through an arduous baseball season remains paramount.
Interestingly enough, that process involves very little running. Once the season starts, McDonald does almost no speed or endurance work. He gets his legs moving while shagging flies in batting practice, warming up before games and then in the games themselves. Once the last out is made, it's time for recovery.
"The hot and cold tub is crucial. That's the best thing you can do," said McDonald, one of the great stories this year for the Red Sox. "I really just focus on that, keeping the legs strong and staying off them when you can."
McDonald, 31, admitted that maintaining muscle strength and getting work done is much easier at the major league level. There are many more devices, trainers and equipment at your disposal.
"It's not like the minor leagues or the old days where you pretty much ice and you're out of luck," he said.
But it's still up to the players themselves to make sure they don't enter the clubhouse for game No. 144 and feel as if they have lead in their legs.
"It's really the most important body part you have in this game, as far as pitching or hitting," McDonald said.
McDonald has been part of seven different organizations, playing the bulk of his games at the minor league level. The Red Sox' rash of injuries in the outfield this season have given him an opportunity, and he has run with it. In limited duty, he ranks second on the team in stolen bases and triples, two categories synonymous with speed. And his play at all three outfield positions has been solid — he leads all Boston outfielders in assists.
While players around him have been in and out of the lineup all year, McDonald has avoided injury. Much of that can be attributed to the aforementioned hard work.
There are no guarantees for McDonald next season, however. The Red Sox could offer him a contract, but he may find more playing time on a team that needs more bodies in the outfield. Wherever he winds up, he will focus on what got him to this level, including maintenance of the wheels.
"You have to keep your legs fresh," he said.