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One chance sometimes all you get

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Maybe because his career veered down a similar path once he tore up his knees, Red Sox manager Terry Francona had an interesting take on Darnell McDonald, the minor-league lifer who finally got the break of his career last season with the Red Sox.

"Perseverance, a little bit of good fortune,'' Francona said when asked why McDonald finally found a place in the big leagues after a dozen seasons mostly spent kicking around the minors. "I hate to say it, but if Mac doesn’t come up and swing the bat, you probably go find somebody else.

"That’s the way the game is. He came up and swung the bat right away. We've had guys come up in similar situations -- Bobby Scales, who is still in the big leagues, Joe Thurston, in the big leagues. Those type of players, unfortunately for them they've got to impact the team when they have the chance. That doesn’t mean they can’t play, but we need to win.''

Sometimes even that isn't enough. McDonald, you may recall, had been told he'd been designated for assignment in St. Petersburg, Fla. in May, but Jacoby Ellsbury went back on the DL before the move became official and the Sox summoned him back.

"We love him,'' Francona said. "He became a really important part of our team. He's a winning-type player, he likes being in this atmosphere. We almost lost him that day in Tampa Bay. If it wasn’t for our front office being real careful, we probably would have lost him.''

Francona recalled being with the Cubs and being told by manager Dallas Green he was being sent down by the Cubs. He had an out in his contract, and wasn't especially receptive when a Cubs vice president told him to go back down and "do things the Cub way.'' Francona suggested he take that "Cub way" and stuff it, except in a much more graphic fashion.

"So I left and went home and was packing,'' Francona said, "when [Cubs outfielder] Bobby Dernier separated his shoulder. Dallas called me in the fifth inning and said if you could manage [not to, um, stuff it], we'd really like you to come back. I came back that day. That's about as big a reprieve as you can get.''