Ortiz, McDonald bond with positive attitudes

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Ortiz, McDonald bond with positive attitudes

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
The text messages came nearly every day. There were phone calls, too. As Darnell McDonald completed a recent rehab assignment in Triple-A Pawtucket, encouragement from the big leagues was consistent.

The source: David Ortiz.

It has been over a year since McDonald was called up to the Boston Red Sox last April and took a seat a few feet away from Ortiz in the clubhouse. In that time, the locker mates have developed such a strong friendship that Ortiz considers McDonald family. Ortiz refers to him as D-Mac, an abbreviation of McDonalds name; McDonald calls Ortiz Big Pun, a reference to the rapper Big Punisher.

Even though the designated hitter and reserve outfielder do not spend much time together on the field, their time spent away from the game has helped them both.

D-Mac is like a brother to me, Ortiz said. I knew him from before the Red Sox but we started getting to know each other since we started playing together. But it doesnt take too long to get to be familiar with a guy like him. Hes cool as hell, and on top of that, he hits you with what you want to hear.

McDonald, 32, had looked up to Ortiz, 35, for years before joining him in Boston. It didnt take him long, though, to sense there was something off about the dominating hitter.

At the time of McDonalds call-up, Ortiz was in a slump (he batted .143 in April 2010). The struggles were obvious to McDonald, and he wanted to help him break through them.

When I watched Big Papi on TV, he always has the patented spit in the gloves and clap, he recalled. He stopped doing it and I told him, When kids watch TV and theyre doing your stance, theyre doing the spit in the gloves and the clap. Weve got to get you going again, got to get your swag. Youre Big Papi.' "

McDonald paused, "He was acting like Little Papi."

McDonald offered Ortiz encouragement while he enjoyed success of his own. He hit a home run in his first at-bat with the Red Sox and made a name for himself by stepping up in an injury-hampered outfield. After playing in over 1,300 minor-league games since 1998, McDonald relished in his opportunity in the Majors. He batted .270 in 117 games last season.

His positive attitude was infectious and his teammate fed off of it. Ortiz broke out of the rut, hitting .363 in May and also finishing the season batting .270, thanks in part to the support of his friend who was rooting him on the entire time.

Hes always there for whenever anybody needs them, said Ortiz. Theres not a better teammate.

This season Ortiz got off to a solid start, but unlike last year, there were not as many opportunities for McDonald early on. Prior to Carl Crawfords recent hamstring injury, the Red Sox outfielders had been healthy for the most part. As a result, McDonald did not see as much playing time.

He appeared in 19 games, batting .143, before going on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left quadriceps on May 26. He was sent to the Pawtucket Red Sox for rehab assignment shortly thereafter.

Youve got to just try, said McDonald. Baseball is a humbling game, a lot of failure. Getting down about it isnt going to make it any better. Just watching how Pun goes about it every day, that helps everyone out because he doesnt panic.

This season Ortiz has been there to share his encouragement just as McDonald did for him. He didnt think twice to reach out while McDonald was in Pawtucket.

Me and Darnell, we go back and forth pretty much every day, talking, texting, he said. It was great to have him come back. I knew he wasnt going to be down there for too long.

McDonald smiled as he recalled the messages. During his rehab stint, Ortiz was named American League Player of the Week after batting .545 during a stretch in early June. As always, this didnt go unnoticed by McDonald.

He told me keep working hard, McDonald said. I was hitting him up too because he was swinging the bat real well, doing his thing, so I was telling him to go get his paper, too. It was just back-and-forth encouragement.

McDonald was activated from the disabled list on June 14 and saw action two days later, recording a hit, a run, and an RBI against the Tampa Bay Rays. Crawfords injury has created an opportunity for playing time as McDonald has appeared in six games since his return from Pawtucket.

Even though McDonald has not recorded a hit since that first game back against the Rays (.108 BA on the season), Ortiz is still in his corner.

I always offer support to Darnell, he said. I just tell my man to stay sharp. Hes going to have a hard time getting in the lineup because of the situation we have. Last year he played more because of the all the injuries and stuff. I dont know how he does it, though. I dont think Id be able to play like that because Im used to the everyday play.

While McDonald keeps a positive outlook himself, he appreciates the words of kindness from Ortiz. His advice meshes with McDonalds never too high, never too low mentality and means a lot to McDonald coming from a proven All-Star.

He taught me just be the same every day. Whether things are going good or bad, come to the field with the same approach every day, said McDonald. It means a lot. Thats Big Papi, you know? If Big Papi tells you something, you listen. Hes been around a long time, done a lot of things, so he always has some words of wisdom, always encouraging.

Its fun for me to come to the field every day and be right here next to Pun.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCameratoNBA

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.