Donald's role to have domino effect on roster

Donald's role to have domino effect on roster

Donald's role to have domino effect on roster
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Jason Donald outfield experiment could influence the way the Indians align their bench come Opening Day. Cleveland wants a backup outfielder capable of handling center field and the club is taking a hard look at Donald.

On Friday, Donald got the nod in center for the second game in a row for the Indians, who hosted the Angels. Donald is a virtual lock to break camp with the big league club as a utility infielder, but the Tribe is seeing if expanding his role is a realistic option.

"I need to see more," manager Manny Acta said. "It gives us more flexibility to get creative at the end if we have to. We need to see more of him. I think he's going to play more center field going forward."

Donald is getting an opportunity to man center right now due to Michael Brantley -- Cleveland's starter at that position -- still being a few days away from returning to games following a right hamstring injury. The Tribe's other backup center-field options (Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Spilborghs and Felix Pie) have labored offensively this spring.

The Indians like Donald's versatility and the fact that he offers a right-handed bat off the bench to back up a lefty-heavy lineup. He can man second base, shortstop and third in the infield and hit .377 against left-handed pitching last season. Overall in 2011, following a battle with a handful of injuries, Donald hit .318 in 39 games with Cleveland.

As for having the chance to play some outfield, Donald said he is embracing the challenge.

"I take it as a compliment from Manny and from [general manager Chris Antonetti]," Donald said. "They brought this up to me. I think I'm in a better spot than if they said they just wanted me as a utility infielder. I take it as a big compliment because they're working to try to get me in the lineup and I'm more than happy to do it.

"I've said it from Day 1, I'm happy to do it. However I can get on the field, more importantly, however I can help us matchup-wise and create problems for other teams, that's definitely something I want to do."

Donald looked solid in his debut in center field on Thursday, but he experienced some growing pains on Friday night. In the seventh inning against the Angels, Donald took a bad route on a ball hit into the right-center gap by Maicer Izturis. The baseball skipped by him, rolling to the wall for a triple.