THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Since call-up, he’s tattooing it

McDonald again produces at plate

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 29, 2010

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TORONTO — Darnell McDonald has the words “Tough Times Don’t Last’’ tattooed across his chest. For a man who has played 1,338 minor league games over parts of 13 seasons, those words must have seemed hollow at times.

But as a member of the Red Sox, McDonald has proved the credo ultimately is true.

The 31-year-old helped make a difference again last night, scoring the first run and driving in the second as the Sox beat the Blue Jays, 2-0. Now 11-11, the Sox are at .500 for the first time since April 14.

“These are the best times; it’s No. 1,’’ McDonald said. “But I’m going to wait for the offseason for it to really settle in. I want to stay focused right now and not only be here, but contribute to the team winning. Hopefully we can continue what we’re doing.’’

McDonald is hitting .333 with a .407 on-base percentage in the nine games he has played. He has scored five runs, driven in six, and has four extra-base hits. McDonald has driven in more runs than Victor Martinez and David Ortiz, and the Red Sox are 7-2 since he arrived from Triple A April 20.

“In the big leagues that’s all that matters, getting that W,’’ McDonald said. “When you can contribute, it feels even better. I’m not trying to do too much.’’

McDonald led off the sixth inning last night with a double to center field off Toronto starter Brett Cecil, who to that point had allowed only two hits. McDonald moved to third when Marco Scutaro singled, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Dustin Pedroia.

McDonald came to the plate again in the seventh inning with Adrian Beltre on third base and two outs. He worked the count to 3-1, then grounded a fastball into left field to give the Sox another run.

“That’s the key for me. I want to contribute. I’m not satisfied just being here. I want to help out and be ready when my name is called,’’ McDonald said. “I’m just trying to stay consistent and get quality at-bats.

“Every time I’m up there I’m thinking about how many good swings I can get.’’

The two-run cushion allowed manager Terry Francona to stay with a tiring Jon Lester for the bottom of the seventh, before turning the lead over to the bullpen.

“Big hit,’’ Francona said. “He’s hitting down there in the nine-hole but he’s had big hits and he’s played a pretty good center field. I think he’s excited about his opportunity and I think he’s looking to make the most of it.’’

McDonald was invited to spring training with the Sox but had only 17 at-bats because of a pulled muscle in his rib cage. But a strong start to the season in Pawtucket put him in line for a promotion.

“We wanted to see him play more,’’ Francona said. “It was pretty much the same speech for everybody. Go to Triple A, do your job, and when there’s a need, be ready. He did that. He’s excited about being here and helping us win games.’’

The Red Sox were desperate for help when they put outfielders Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list and called up McDonald. The team seemed on the verge of falling into a hole from which there would be little chance of escape.

“To be honest with you, the way we were going we needed help from anybody who could give it,’’ Jason Varitek said. “But I’m glad it’s Darnell. He’s a good dude. This is great to see.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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