FORT MYERS, Fla. ? After 12 seasons with six organizations, Darnell McDonald finally “made it” as a major leaguer in 2010. He was a fixture with the Red Sox and a key replacement for injured outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron.
Despite the breakthrough, nothing has changed for the grounded 32-year-old.
“They don?t pay me for last year, so I?ve already forgotten about it,” McDonald said early Tuesday morning in Fort Myers. “I feel like every year I have something to prove coming into camp. I don?t have anything to change just because of last year. It just gave me an opportunity to look at the things that I can improve upon as a player.”
For the guy who has the inside track as the fifth outfielder, that involves improving his defensive game and just making sure he stays in shape, two of the goals of the offseason. Well, there were a few other things on McDonald?s plate.
“Worked on taking my daughter to school,” he joked with reporters. “My dance moves — she?s working on the the Ducky.”
Fatherhood aside, McDonald has plenty of responsibilities this year. With Ellsbury and Cameron coming back from injury and J.D. Drew likely needing a day here and there when left-handers are on the mound, McDonald figures to get a few starts and should serve as the team?s primary pinch runner. He could play defense late in games at multiple positions and he is a nice safety net if somebody goes down for an extended period of time.
McDonald even said that if manager Terry Francona wants him fielding grounders, he?ll do it. Whatever it takes.
“Nothing?s changed, I feel the same way,? he said. ?My role is to be prepared every day. Whatever I?m asked to do.”
One of his chores will involve showing new teammate Carl Crawford around, once Crawford shows up in Fort Myers. The two got to know one another when McDonald was in Tampa Bay?s system in 2005 and 2006, and both have trained at the Athletes? Performance Institute in Arizona.
McDonald is excited to have Crawford on his side once again and knows that his one full year in Boston can help to assimilate the club?s new left fielder.
“Looking forward to putting on the same uniform and not having to watch him run around the bases to control a game,” McDonald said of Crawford. “I?ll give him a heads-up, give him an idea of what he has to look forward to coming to Boston. It?s going to be exciting for everyone to have Carl here in a Red Sox uniform.”
Asked specifically what Crawford brings to the table, McDonald cited his work ethic.
“They probably don?t realize how hard he works at his game,” McDonald said. “He?s pretty much consumed by getting better at playing baseball. A lot of guys, as they age, really don?t think like that.”
McDonald, for one, does. His career path has made him think that way, if only to get a chance like the one he received with the Red Sox. While not resting on his laurels, the former first-round pick said that the 2010 season, in which he hit .270 with nine home runs and nine stolen bases, made him more confident, knowing he can play at the major league level.
McDonald said he feels he still has to earn a spot on the major-league roster. Still, it was nice spending a winter knowing where he would be once February rolled around.
“It?s definitely better than not knowing,” he said.
With that, McDonald ran off to the batting cages, hoping to get a little bit better than he was the day before.