TEMPE, Ariz. — There were mixed emotions Tuesday in the Scituate, Mass., household of John McDonald, the 39-year-old utility infielder who was told by Angels Manager Mike Scioscia he had made the team and was officially added to the 40-man roster.
“My 5½-year-old daughter said, ‘I’m happy for you, Daddy, but sad for me,’ ” McDonald said. “She wants Daddy to come home.”
Jackie McDonald is going to have to wait for Daddy to come home — until well after October, John hopes. On the plus side, Jackie will be able to make plenty of trips to Disneyland as long as her slick-fielding father keeps playing the kind of defense he has played this spring and throughout his 15-year career.
“He showed us this week that he’s a piece that can definitely help us on the defensive side,” Scioscia said. “He’s a magician with the glove. He’s really showed well at shortstop recently, and that’s something to put a lot of weight on.”
McDonald is a career .235 hitter who knows that his glove, hands and quick release have kept him employed. But it didn’t hurt that he had hit .321 with three walks before Tuesday’s game against the Chicago Cubs.
“Everyone knows you don’t just change the player you are over the course of 15 years, but I’ve tried to have better quality at-bats and shorten my swing,” McDonald said. “I tried to hit the ball through the infield instead of over the outfield. I think a couple of adjustments I made allowed me to have some better at-bats this spring, which I plan to take into the year.”
McDonald’s winning of the utility infield spot solidifies half of the Angels’ bench — along with backup catcher Hank Conger — and probably means Grant Green will open the season at triple-A Salt Lake.
Left-handed-hitting infielder Ian Stewart, who can play third base, second and first, appears to have the edge for a bench job, and J.B. Shuck, Collin Cowgill and Matt Long are battling for a reserve outfield spot.