McDonald game to play any position
Veteran utilityman made first outfield start in Saturday's loss
TORONTO -- John McDonald has not been behind the plate to catch in a game yet. But he's ready if asked, in his role as the Toronto Blue Jays' emergency catcher, No. 3 behind Rod Barajas and Raul Chavez.
"That might be next," McDonald said with a grin.
McDonald is a slick shortstop by trade who also can dazzle with his glove at third or second, and he uses these talents in a utility role. But with Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill playing so well offensively and defensively this season for the Blue Jays, McDonald's playing time has been limited. He is as likely to play at third as in the middle infield. In his 17 starts this season, nine have been at third base.
Now, McDonald has added outfield to his resume. He started in the outfield for the first time in his career in Saturday's 6-4 loss to the New York Yankees, playing left field. He handled his one chance, a line drive to the warning track, flawlessly and contributed a run-scoring single.
It is something McDonald, who is eligible to become a free agent this winter, discussed with manager Cito Gaston, as the 34-year-old tries to make himself as versatile as possible to add to his value to the Blue Jays or another team that might be interested in him during the offseason.
"[McDonald's] a free agent [at the end of the season], and the more positions he plays, the better off he is," Gaston said. "Mac's been just a great person on this team all year, as far as not complaining when he's not playing. He doesn't complain about anything, and when you need him, he's there to go.
"We just had a conversation about maybe playing the outfield, and I said I'll get you out there. He's been such a great citizen here; you've got to give him the chance. Besides, Mac could probably play anywhere. He's our third catcher."
"The way baseball goes sometimes, you see more players that are getting molded for that utility role," McDonald said. "More versatile players not only have more teams that are interested, but have more options to be able to play.
"There may be some times when they need an extra right-handed bat in the lineup, but there are only so many places to do that in the infield. Playing an outfield spot may give me an opportunity to play. I don't think you can ever stop trying to make yourself a better player or a more complete player. You want to have more value."
McDonald entered a game in the late innings to play left field earlier this season, his first experience at the position in his professional career.
There are obvious differences between playing the outfield and infield, but McDonald said, "You kind of apply the same instincts, the same things you're thinking about in the infield when you're in the outfield. You try to use your same instincts."
The middle infielder has the advantage in being able to anticipate where the ball may be hit by being able to clearly read the catcher's signs.
"It's a little harder to do that from the corner outfield," McDonald said. "Maybe from center, if you have real good eyesight. That's the good thing about playing short and second, because you know exactly what pitch is coming, the location and where it's going to go, so you can anticipate that much more.
"Now [in the outfield], you're trying to read the play as it happens a little bit more than having the jump start in the middle infield."
Playing left field has its tricky side because of the way the ball comes out there.
"It slices and it hooks," McDonald said. "[In center], the ball comes at you a little more straight, but there's a lot more ground to cover. I think there are difficulties in every spot out there."
Larry Millson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.