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McDonald’s heroics not done

07.11.10 at 5:59 pm ET

TORONTO — There have been plenty of surprises in the first half of the season for the Red Sox, so on a day in which another one popped up in the form of a dominant start to Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch‘s day, perhaps one shouldn’t have been caught off guard by the fact that it was Darnell McDonald who was able to break the scoreless tie in the sixth inning. The outfielder has seemingly co-headlined the you-don’t-know-us-but-you-will-after-a-couple-at-bats tour with Daniel Nava that’s sweeping the nation (and now Canada).

McDonald has gone from being a first-round non-factor with the Orioles to being a key part of the operation on the diamond in Boston. With injuries in the outfield to Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida and the fact that Mike Cameron isn’t 100 percent, McDonald has been big for the Red Sox, hitting .271 with, six homers, 24 RBI.

“He’s been a valuable member of what we’re doing,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said after the team’s 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays. “I think when he first got here he was really trying to show he belonged in the big leagues. I think now he knows he belongs and he knows he’s valuable on our team. He’s kind of taken it and run with it. He’s been tremendous.”

McDonald can agree with Francona’s assessment that he emphasized showing everybody that he was a major-leaguer, but that subsided after he homered and added a walk-off single off the left field wall in his debut against the Rangers on April 20.

“Sometimes you try to come up and do too much,” McDonald admitted. “It definitely helped getting off to a good start. The biggest thing is the opportunities. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities and every day I just want to take advantage of those opportunities and the guys around me have made me feel comfortable, made me feel a part of this team and that definitely helps out.”

Even with all of the factors that McDonald can give credit to for his success — God, hard work, his teammates — it’s the sense of having something to prove to others that has continued to be a motivating factor as he and the Red Sox head into the second half of the season.

“I know that I didn’t have to prove anything to myself,” McDonald said. “I believe in myself, that I can play at this level. Every day i feel like I’ve got to prove something to everybody, being that I can play at this level. I’m not 21 years old anymore, but the biggest thing is just believing in yourself and that’s one thing that I haven’t stopped doing from day one.”

McDonald would not have been in Sunday’s lineup if it weren’t for Cameron feeling sore after getting hit on the wrist in Saturday’s game by a fastball from Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow. Now 31, McDonald seems to fit in excellent in a role that can be unpredictable given Cameron’s health. Despite being in a reserve role depending on the day, the 67 games that the outfielder has played in this season are the most for a year in his career. He played in 17 with the Orioles back in 2004 and saw game action four times for the Twins in ’07 before playing 47 games for the Reds last season.

The excitement that McDonald can exude paints the picture of just how fortunate he considers himself to be in a major league clubhouse. If he has it his way he’ll keep helping the team for the rest of the season, but for now he takes it day by day as he tries to improve.

“Every day is special for me,” McDonald said. “Man, it’s been a great ride and by no means am I satisfied with what I’ve done. I’m definitely happy to be able to come up here and contribute and help the team win. I think there’s still more to come and things that i camn work on and become a better player at playing at this level.”

Read More: daniel nava, darnell mcdonald, Terry Francona,
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