MLB

McDonald plays role of sage for young Blue Jays

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DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP)

Becoming a coach isn't on John McDonald's radar just yet, but while he's playing he enjoys being a mentor to his fellow Toronto Blue Jays infielders.

``I would hope the younger players would use a player like me as a source of knowledge,'' said the 35-year-old McDonald, primarily a shortstop who has spent parts of 11 major league seasons between Cleveland and Toronto, plus a cup of coffee with Detroit.

He was mentored in Cleveland by 14-time Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel.

``I feel like I've got a lot of knowledge to give back to younger players. You want to not necessarily be a coach on the field, but I would encourage and all the younger infielders to ask as many questions as they can,'' McDonald said.

He has appeared in more than 100 games in only two seasons and isn't often a starter but, manager Cito Gaston said Friday, ``Mac is almost a perfect citizen on this club. A few times last year he almost had me crying because I hadn't played him in so long.

``He'd come in and assure me, `Don't worry about it. I'm OK.' You don't get people around like that a lot. Sometimes they're so upset they're not playing and they don't want to cooperate. He's the opposite of that,'' Gaston said.

When his contract expired after last season, McDonald became a free agent and didn't know whether the Blue Jays would want him back - and although he might have had the opportunity to play on a team more likely to contend for the playoffs, he wasn't certain he wanted to go anywhere else.

``If I go to one of those other teams my playing time could be significantly decreased, or not,'' he said. ``It all depends on injuries (to players) in front of me and how well I play.''

The Blue Jays wanted him back, offering a two-year contract which would give him 10 years of service in the majors.

``I never thought I would get there,'' McDonald said. ``I'm playing well beyond the years that I thought I'd be playing. I think it's great for me and I think it's great for a lot of the younger players. I can talk about thing's that I've learned from players that played 10 years ago.''

This is, he acknowledged, a rebuilding year, particularly with pitching ace Roy Halladay traded to Philadelphia in December.

``These kids, I want to be able to make them better players and come and take my job. I want them to get as good as they can get, and if they're good enough to become everyday players, then that's great for the organization.''

Tagged: Indians, Blue Jays, John McDonald

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