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Notes: McDonald aims for offense
10/26/2007 1:00 PM ET
TORONTO -- On the surface, it's an odd pairing. A light-hitting shortstop from the Blue Jays and the slugging designated hitter from the Indians. Still, Toronto's John McDonald spends part of his offseason training with Travis Hafner.

Last winter, a more intense running program back home in Cleveland helped McDonald build his endurance for an increased work load with the Jays. This time around, McDonald plans to focus on improving his skills in the batter's box.

Maybe Hafner can help.

"Yeah, he's going to try," McDonald said with a laugh, discussing his plans for the winter at the end of this past season. "That's the plan. I feel like I made some strides this year and I just want to continue to make more strides. I'm still searching for that season where you're a more complete player."

McDonald, 33, has established himself as one of the premier defensive shortstops in the American League, garnering a two-year extension worth $3.8 million from Toronto in September as a result. Now that he's emerged as more than just a bench player, though, McDonald understands that becoming a better hitter can make him even more valuable for the Blue Jays.

This past season, McDonald hit .251 with a career-high 20 doubles in 123 games -- the most he's played in his nine big league campaigns. His average was 11 points higher than his career mark, but there's still room for improvement. McDonald won't be alone in his quest to upgrade hit offense, either. New hitting coach Gary Denbo said he's also looking forward to helping McDonald.

"He's a guy I've watched over the years just make spectacular defensive plays," Denbo said, "and I've always thought, 'Man, if only he could hit just a little bit better.' If he could put up some better offensive numbers, this guy is going to be one of the elite players in the league. Hopefully, I can help him move in that direction."

The process will begin in mid-November, when McDonald has recovered from the sports-hernia operation he underwent after the season. The surgery, which was performed to repair a slight tear in McDonald's abdominal muscles, requires a four-to-six week recovery period for the shortstop.

"I'll just rest and then start working," McDonald said. "It's not a strenuous process. I'm not going to change a thing out of my progression for the season.

"I won't really take a whole lot of time off. As soon as my abdominal muscles heal up, I'll start hitting. I've got a couple of guys I'm going to hit with in Cleveland."

The rumor mill: The offseason is a time when rumors can take on a life of their own, and that's what Rogers Inc. is insisting has happened in regards to a recent radio rumor involving Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Godfrey.

A story came out on the FAN 590, indicating that Godfrey might be leaving the Jays to focus his efforts on bringing a National Football League team to Toronto. The story was later reported by Rogers Sportsnet, which had Godfrey, who has headed the Jays since 2000, leaving his current position as soon as Nov. 2.

"There is no truth to this rumor," Jan Innis, Rogers vice president of communications, told the Toronto Star earlier this week. "There are no plans to replace Paul Godfrey. End of story. One of our on-air personalities spoke to this, and never called anyone at Rogers to ask if it was true or not."

Arizona update: A handful of Blue Jays Minor Leaguers continue to compete in the Arizona Fall League, suiting up for the Scottsdale Scorpions. Outfielder Travis Snider, who was Toronto's top pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, has maintained his torrid start to the fall season, hitting .390 with two home runs through 11 games.

Outfielder Ryan Patterson has posted a .265 average with two RBIs through nine games and shortstop Sergoi Santos has hit .250 with one homer and five RBIs through 10 contests. Left-hander David Purcey made three starts through Thursday, posting an 0-1 record with a 3.38 ERA. He notched 13 strikeouts and six walks over eight innings.

Through Thursday, Ricky Romero, who was the Jays' first choice in the '05 Draft, has appeared in five games, including one start. The lefty has yielded eight runs, five earned, with five strikeouts and three walks across 6 2/3 innings. Through four outings, right-hander Jamie Vermilyea had allowed 11 runs on 14 hits over five innings in relief.

Farther south: Toronto also has a few players continuing their seasons in the Dominican and Venezuelan Winter Leagues. Through Thursday, Robinzon Diaz -- one of the Jays' top catching prospects -- had appeared in one game with the Tigres del Licey in the Dominican, collecting two hits in his debut after suffering a hand injury during the Triple-A season.

Hector Luna, who is in the running for a utility job with the Jays next year, is also playing in the Dominican League. Through six games with Aguilas Cibaenas, Luna has hit .364 with one RBI. Manny Mayorson had a .400 average through two games with Azucareros del Este in the Dominican.

In the Venezuelan League, infielder Ray Olmedo, who is also in the mix for a utility role next season with the Jays, has hit .431 with four RBIs for the Bravos de Margarita. Through 12 games, Olmedo had tallied 22 hits. Pitcher Ryan Houston owned a 2.25 ERA through three relief appearances with the Cardenales de Lara.

Moving up: Earlier this week, the Blue Jays announced that area scout Marc Tramuta was promoted to the position of national crosschecker. This year, Tramuta also took home the Al LaMacchia Award, which honors the scout who "exemplifies the work ethic and perseverance best demonstrated by the longtime Jays executive for whom the award is named."

Quotable: "We're in uncharted waters there with how many games he can play. He's arguably one of the top-three defensive shortstops in the American League. I think, if our offense is what it should be, that we can carry a .250-hitting shortstop."
--Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, on McDonald

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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