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John McDonald on playing for Red Sox: ‘Always thought it might be a possibility before I retired’

08.31.13 at 9:49 pm ET
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New Red Sox infielder John MacDonald is known for his defense. (AP)

New Red Sox infielder John McDonald is known for his defense. (AP)

Four times.

That’s how many occasions John McDonald has been traded this season, with his latest move coming Saturday night when the Red Sox dealt for the Providence College product just prior to the waiver trade deadline.

“I’ve been getting closer to home, going from Arizona to Pittsburgh to Cleveland to Philly to Boston,” said the 38-year-old infielder when reached by phone Saturday night. “I’m inching my way home. It might be baseball’s way of telling me something. But I’m not ready to listen. I’m just excited about it.”

McDonald learned of the deal from Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro and interim manager Ryne Sandberg following Philadelphia’s game against the Cubs in Chicago Saturday. That was followed by a call from Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.

Having gone through a 15-year career with what is now eight major league teams, McDonald wasn’t about to be jolted by the news.

“Yes and no,” said McDonald when asked if he was surprised by the deal. “Yes because it’s an exciting opportunity, going home. but no because I’ve been traded four times already this year. I’ve played long enough where you aren’t really surprised about anything that happens in the game. You can go from being released to being signed and all of a sudden winning a ring. There are so many things that can happen you can’t be surprised by it anymore. I just think excited is a better word.”

The kid from Lyme, Conn. (his dad was a Yankees fan) had been drafted by Cleveland out of a New England college, and many had believed that McDonald would ultimately end up calling Fenway Park home at some point.

He was no different.

“I think it’s definitely gone through my mind,” McDonald said. “But you always look at roster construction and how teams are built. At some point this year I thought it might be a possibility with Stephen [Drew] being a left-handed hitter and teams sometimes look for a right-handed complement. I know what type of hitter I am. I’m not going to thrill anyone with my home run power. But I can play defense and contribute on a daily basis in ways I feel I can contribute. I always thought it might be a possibility before I retired, and I’m pretty excited I’m getting that opportunity now.”

The Red Sox trade for McDonald appears to be a good fit, for a variety of reasons.

He still is considered one of the better defensive infielders in the major leagues, having settled into life as a defensive specialist/utility infielder for some time now. (Out of the 55 games he has appeared in, the righty hitter has only managed three or more at-bats 10 times.)

McDonald has played second base (5 games), shortstop (19 games), third (16 games), left field (once) and even pitcher (recording the final out against Arizona last Saturday).

“I know what type of player I am and it’s not really a secret,” said McDonald, who is hitting just a combined .111 with his three previous teams this season, and carries a .235 career batting average. “I’m not a big bat that you’re going to acquire at the deadline to hit fourth. I do what I do. I haven’t changed since the day I broke into the big leagues. I’m not expecting anything but a club wanting me to do what I’m capable of.”

There is also a connection to the Red Sox coaching staff.

Sox manager John Farrell first met McDonald while serving as the Indians’ farm director, and then managed the infielder for most of the ’11 season prior to a trade with Arizona.

McDonald also has a longstanding relationship with Red Sox third base/infield coach Brian Butterfield, who was with the player for seven seasons in Toronto.

And then there is the proximity to his roots.

“I played a New England college game [at Fenway Park] while I was at Providence,” he said. “Just getting to step on that field and getting to play in a game, I think I felt like that was the closest I was ever going to get to playing in the major leagues was playing on that field. That was a long time ago.”

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