04/22/09 8:06 PM ET
McDonald fine with limited role
Scutaro, Hill making it difficult for veteran to find a spot
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Sure, McDonald wants to be on the field and craves the everyday role he has filled for stretches throughout his five-year tenure with Toronto. Right now, though, shortstop Marco Scutaro and second baseman Aaron Hill are shining on defense and leading the charge at the top of a what has been a potent offense in the season's first few weeks.
The performance of Scutaro and Hill has forced McDonald into a very limited role. Through the Blue Jays' first 16 contests, he has been used only as a pinch-runner or as a late-inning defensive replacement during blowouts. McDonald understands the situation and he believes his time to contribute will come at some point.
"I've gone through stretches before in my career where it was the same thing," McDonald said. "I don't necessarily view it as a bad thing. Marco is playing so good on both sides -- defensively and offensively -- and Aaron is playing great. For me to say that I need to play, the game isn't as much about me as it is about our club.
"I want to play more than anything, but I want to win even more. The way these guys are playing, it's just great winning baseball. You don't really want to mess with that. I totally understand everything that's going on and I appreciate how well they're playing.
"I've been around long enough to understand that the No. 1 priority is winning -- it's not making sure everyone is happy. And, when you're winning, it's a funny thing, everybody is happy."
Entering Wednesday's game against the Rangers, Scutaro was hitting .281 with four home runs, 10 RBIs and a .417 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot. Hill, who slots into the order's second spot each night, boasted a .368 average, led the team with five home runs, and had amassed 15 RBIs to go along with a .647 slugging percentage.
McDonald, 34, is one of the top defensive shortstops in the game, but he has a .236 career batting average. McDonald has been working on being more aggressive at the plate, but that alone isn't enough to convince Gaston to pull Scutaro or Hill from the lineup at the moment. That's left McDonald with only three at-bats across seven appearances this season.
"I feel guilty I don't have him in there sometimes," Gaston said. "But the other two guys are playing so well that I just don't know where to put him right now -- I don't have the space to put him. Mac is a great guy. He's the kind of guy who doesn't sulk and he doesn't get upset.
"But, he also wants me to know that he wants to play. I know he wants to play, but he's not a troublemaker. He can see that the team is playing well with the guys that are out there and he's not going to be a problem."
Last season, McDonald was used sparingly for much of the early portion of the season under former manager John Gibbons. McDonald made 45 of his 52 starts at shortstop last season after Gaston took over as Toronto's manager on June 20. During one stretch from Aug. 3-28, Gaston penciled McDonald's name into the lineup for 23 straight games.
McDonald received more playing time down the stretch last season partly due to the fact that the Jays were without Hill (sidelined for the year with a concussion in late May) and third baseman Scott Rolen (out with a left shoulder injury for much of August) for extended periods of time. Joe Inglett helped out at second, Scutaro split time around the infield and McDonald mainly manned short.
McDonald knows similar circumstances could come up again this year.
"That's why I stay prepared," McDonald said. "I know at any point of any game I could be playing the rest of that game and then for weeks on end. Injuries are part of this game and you need more than 25 guys in a season.
"It's happened every year. There are times you're called upon and you have to be ready."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.