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MLB Spring Training 2012: Darnell McDonald Outplaying Ryan Sweeney for Job

SARASOTA, FL - MARCH 11:  Outfielder Darnell McDonald #54 of the Boston Red Sox signs autographs just before the start of the Grapefruit League Spring Training Game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium on March 11, 2012 in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images
Benjamin KleinContributor IIIMarch 15, 2012

Despite the ongoing battle to see who Boston's No. 5 starter is or who the Opening Day shortstop will be, one of the more fascinating roster battles is who will win the extra outfielder job, Darnell McDonald or Ryan Sweeney?

The Red Sox acquired Sweeney this past offseason in a deal that sent outfielder Josh Reddick to Oakland, but more importantly brought closer Andrew Bailey to Boston.

Sweeney, really an afterthought in the deal, was expected to be a platoon outfielder with whomever Boston could later sign or acquire. The player they got was Cody Ross, who was signed to a one-year contract.

As it appears now, Carl Crawford will not be ready to start in left field on Opening Day, meaning that Boston will most likely have four available outfielders to start the season, one of whom will be moved once Crawford is healthy enough to rejoin the Red Sox lineup.

The player who will be moved to Triple-A Pawtucket, traded or cut is still yet to be determined; however, it would seem that it would be either Sweeney or McDonald.

McDonald has spent the last two seasons in Boston as a backup outfielder, appearing in 196 games over that span and hitting .258/325/.420 with 15 home runs, 58 RBIs, 66 runs and 24 doubles.

Sweeney has played in Oakland over the past four seasons, and last year he played in 108 games, hitting .265/.346/.341 with only one home run, 25 RBIs, 34 runs and 11 doubles. 

This spring has really given manager Bobby Valentine and Red Sox Nation a good, hard look at who the extra outfielder should be. As of now, it's Darnell McDonald.

On Monday, Sweeney suffered a strained left quad that has kept him out of this week's games, and he's currently listed as day-to-day, according to MLB.com's Evan Drellich. In the five games that Sweeney has appeared over the last couple of weeks, he's been awful. In the 12 at-bats he's had thus far, he only has one hit and three RBIs.

On the other hand, McDonald has been very impressive in his eight games, including today's game against the Cardinals. He's 6-16 with two home runs, three RBIs, and four runs thus far, doing his best to try and earn that roster spot.

If Sweeney doesn't come off his injury hot, the final outfielder spot could easily fall to McDonald.

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