McDonald happy to be in bigs again

ST. LOUIS -- Darnell McDonald said Sunday he would not use the word “surprise” to describe his reaction to being called up by the Chicago Cubs from Triple-A Iowa. He did, however, use the word happy three times in a span of five minutes.

McDonald returned to the major leagues for the first time since July 13 of last year when he was summoned to replace catcher J.C. Boscan on the roster.

“I’m just happy to be here,” McDonald said. “It’s always a good day when you get an opportunity to play in the big leagues.”

McDonald, 34, has played 306 games in the major leagues over the past nine years, getting there for the first time as a 25-year-old rookie with the Orioles in 2004. He played in 42 games last year between stints with the Red Sox and Yankees.

He signed with the Cubs last winter as a minor-league free agent, and had spent the first four months of the season at Triple-A, where he hit .236 in 92 games with four homers and 26 RBIs.

“Lately I was able to start feeling pretty good, and that’s something I hope I can carry over up here,” McDonald said. “After 17 years of playing ball, every season is different. I’m just happy to be here and my job is to be ready when my name is called.

“I just love playing baseball. Obviously you want to be in the big leagues but I’m more worried about just going out and playing. I’m happy to be here now. There’s been a lot of transactions and things like that, but you just keep your head down and worry about going to the field and preparing yourself.”

McDonald filled another role at Iowa, serving as an unofficial mentor to some of the Cubs’ younger prospects, including 23-year-old Junior Lake, making the conversion to the outfield this season.

“Junior’s an exciting player and a fun player to watch,” McDonald said. “He can do a lot of things on the baseball field. It’s scary to think he’s just starting out. He’s going to do some special things.

“When you play 17 years you are going to learn a lot of things along the way, and things young players go through, especially in the minor leagues. If I can help anybody and impart any wisdom to help somebody’s career, for them to fulfill their dream of playing in the major leagues, that’s what I’m here for. They make it fun for me, and keep me young and keep me going.”

Manager Dale Sveum said McDonald might get some starts in the outfield when the Cubs face a left-handed pitcher, but mostly will be used as a pinch-hitter and coming off the bench.

McDonald said he will be more than happy to fill that role.

“I just put my faith in the man upstairs, and go out and try to play the game hard,” he said. “Every game could be your last game, and that’s how I try to approach every day. It is special to be here, and something I definitely don’t take for granted.”