Cabrera suffered a strained right quad while running out a ground ball on June 3 at Yankee Stadium, and the shortstop expected to be sidelined for four or five weeks. Instead, Cabrera is returning in just over three weeks after successfully navigating his way through a rehab program.
"He came back a lot quicker than we anticipated," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think we were probably hoping that maybe [he'd return] by the end of this road trip. So it was kind of shocking, the progress he was making."
Prior to Monday's game in Baltimore, the Indians put Cabrera through an intense workout at Camden Yards to test the strength and endurance in the shortstop's legs. The two-time All-Star impressed Francona and the Indians' medical staff, which cleared him to return for Wednesday's game against the Orioles.
The Indians put Cabrera in the lineup's second spot as their shortstop.
"When he came out Monday," Francona said, "what he did on the field, I was like, 'If he can do that, [he's ready].' He's running better now than he was at the beginning of the year. It kind of stunned us all. He just attacked it."
Cabrera, who has battled the quad issue since at least late April, is batting .254 with five home runs, 18 doubles, two triples, 25 RBIs and 28 runs scored through 53 games this season. He hit .295 in the 24 games leading up to the setback on June 3 in New York.
McDonald, 38, was acquired from the Pirates in exchange for cash and/or a player to be named later on June 10. He appeared in eight games in his second career stint with Cleveland, serving as a backup shortstop and late-inning defensive replacement.
Cleveland has 10 days to trade or release McDonald, or assign him to a Minor League affiliate if he clears waivers.
"We all want Johnny Mac to land on his feet," Francona said. "And he's going to land on his feet just by being Johnny Mac. ... And if [he doesn't land a big league job], he knows how welcome he is back here."