ARLINGTON -- John McDonald smiled when asked if anyone in the clubhouse was on the Indians the last time the veteran infielder suited up for the Tribe. McDonald ran through the roster in his mind and then realized he had a former Cleveland teammate in the coaches' locker room.
"Does Sandy count?" McDonald said with a laugh.
That would be bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., who was teammates with McDonald in Cleveland most recently in 2000. A few years have gone by since then for the 38-year-old McDonald, who rejoined the Indians on Tuesday after being acquired from the Pirates a day earlier for a player to be named and/or cash considerations.
McDonald was selected by Cleveland in the 12th round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft and spent parts of the 1999-2004 seasons with the Tribe. Thanks to a strong glove and an affable personality, McDonald has enjoyed 15 seasons in the big leagues between stints with the Indians, Blue Jays, Tigers, D-backs and Pirates.
McDonald will serve as the primary backup to shortstop Mike Aviles while All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera remains on the disabled list with his right quad strain. McDonald can also provide depth at second and third base, along with leadership in the clubhouse.
"He'll back up everywhere," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Johnny Mac has been through it. He can catch the ball wherever you put him. When he's not playing, he'll be an outstanding influence. Anybody that's been around him for two seconds, he just brightens up everybody's day."
To clear room on the active roster, Cleveland optioned shortstop Juan Diaz back to Triple-A Columbus. Diaz was promoted on June 4 when Cabrera landed on the disabled list, but the young shortstop did not appear in a game for the Tribe. Francona said a young player like Diaz should not be sitting on the bench.
"It wasn't the ideal situation for Juan," Francona said. "He's a young player and needs to play."
McDonald appeared in just 16 games with the Pirates this season and recently completed a Minor League rehab stint with Triple-A Indianapolis after a back injury. Over 970 career games, McDonald has hit just .237, but his bat has never been his main skill. Teams have continued to give McDonald a spot in the Majors due to the stellar defense he can provide off the bench.
That remains the case with Cleveland.
"It's the same role," McDonald said. "My role hasn't necessarily changed over the course of my career. I'll be ready to play all three spots in the infield. The type of player I am hasn't really changed since I was younger. I'm not expected to go out and hit 20 homers. It's just play defense, have good at-bats and help the team win."
McDonald was thrilled to be back with the Indians, too.
"I'm excited," he said. "It was a lot of fun when I was here and it's good to be wearing these colors again and having the Wahoo on. You never know where baseball is going to take you."