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Red Sox Notebook

McDonald adds to his body of work

Sox designated hitter David Ortiz mugs it up before having a still picture taken during photo day. Sox designated hitter David Ortiz mugs it up before having a still picture taken during photo day. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / February 21, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Darnell McDonald has been a professional baseball player since 1997 when he was drafted by the Orioles. But it wasn’t until last year that he spent a full season in the major leagues.

The 32-year-old outfielder returned to his home in Arizona realizing he had to prepare his body differently than he had in previous offseasons. To stay with the Red Sox, McDonald knew he had to be quicker and more athletic.

“It’s a faster game, that’s what stuck with me,’’ he said yesterday. “You have to be very athletic to play with these guys and succeed.’’

McDonald tailored his workouts to improve his speed. He also got stronger without adding more weight.

“Just more athletic, that’s how I feel,’’ he said. “It’s not a big difference but it’s going to help me.’’

McDonald hit .270 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs in 117 games for the Red Sox, turning an opportunity to help the team for a few days in April into a regular role off manager Terry Francona’s bench.

With Jed Lowrie able to play every infield position, the Red Sox can afford to keep McDonald as their fifth outfielder.

“That’s certainly the hope,’’ Francona said.

The righthanded-hitting McDonald hit .294 against lefthanders last season with an .821 OPS. That ability is valuable to the Sox, who have three lefthanded hitters in their outfield.

Diplomatic dealings Righthander Alfredo Aceves and lefthander Dennys Reyes have an 8 a.m. appointment at the US consulate in Hermosillo, Mexico, Wednesday to get their visas.

Aceves plans to work out here tomorrow before making the trip and should return the next evening.

Reyes has been unable to leave Mexico. The veteran reliever, who was signed to a minor league contract, shouldn’t be too hampered by his absence from camp.

“If he hasn’t been throwing and he’s behind, that wouldn’t be good,’’ Francona said. “I would imagine he knows what he’s in for. He knows he’s in competition; he certainly wants to put his best foot forward. I would be surprised if he’s allowed himself to get behind.’’

Aceves, who was non-tendered by the Yankees because of a lingering back injury, has impressed the Red Sox so far. He threw batting practice yesterday and showcased a live fastball and good sinker.

“Extremely driven, very motivated, says he’s completely healthy and has done nothing off the mound to show that he’s not,’’ Francona said. “Not behind. We were prepared to ease him in and he does not want to do that. I think he’s driven to show what he can do.’’

Jeter likes the Sox Count Derek Jeter as the latest Yankee to heap praise on the revamped Red Sox.

“Boston, what can you say? It seems like it’s the same thing every year. They have a really, really good team,’’ he told reporters in Tampa.

“With the additions that they’ve made, I’d assume they are one of the favorites. I don’t know if anyone really picks one favorite; everyone has a difference of opinion. Boston is up there with every team in the game. Last year they had a great team, they just had a lot of injuries, which was fortunate for us.

“Their team is great and we understand how difficult it is to play them. They’ve made as good improvements as any team in baseball.’’

Papelbon absent Jonathan Papelbon was missing from yesterday’s workout. General manager Theo Epstein said the closer was dealing with a family illness and termed it an “excused absence.’’ . . . David Ortiz dusted off his glove to take some grounders at first base and looked good, snapping up a few balls while working with Adrian Gonzalez. “Papi’s going to win a Gold Glove at the DH spot,’’ Gonzalez yelled to Francona . . . Tim Wakefield threw BP as well and had Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford taking bad swings at his knuckleball . . . First base coach Ron Johnson missed the final two months of last season attending to his daughter, Bridget, after she was seriously injured in a car accident. He asked to say a few words to the team on Saturday to thank them for their support. “It was important to him,’’ Francona said. “He had a long year last year. It was touching for everybody.’’

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

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