Big Mac attack? Hardly

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
10:38
AM ET
BOSTON--Ask any player, and he'll tell you one of the toughest jobs in the game is to be a bench player. You can go days between starts and even at-bats, which makes it a daunting challenge to maintain your timing and feel good about your swing.

Mike Cameron, an everyday player his entire career, failed miserably this season as a part-timer and on Thursday was designated for assignment. In Cameron's case, his age (38) and last year's major abdominal surgery are almost certainly contributing factors, as Cameron was playing pretty regularly in the last couple of weeks before he was let go.

But consider the case of 32-year-old Sox reserve Darnell McDonald. Last season, McDonald seemed to find a niche with the Sox after more than a decade in the minors, batting .270 in 117 games. This season, McDonald hasn't hit at all--except when he played every day during a rehab stint in Pawtucket, where he played every day and batted .345 (10 for 29) with 2 home runs, 3 doubles and 11 RBIs. The Sox actually left him there not because of injury, but to give him a chance to find his stroke.

McDonald's job wouldn't be in jeopardy if he'd given the Sox even a semblance of that kind of production upon his return. Instead, he has gone just 3 for 31, even though he, like Cameron, was playing pretty regularly with Carl Crawford on the disabled list.

Crawford is eligible to come off the DL Sunday in Houston, though the Sox have made it known they would prefer to wait until the team returns to Boston next week. When he does come back, McDonald could be the player sent down to make room for him. So, unless he gets a couple of hits in the interim, he has the chance to be in some rare company in Sox history: namely, Tim Naehring and five catchers. They are the only nonpitchers in Sox history to have 50 or more plate appearances with a lower batting average than McDonald's .115.

Naehring opened the 1991 season as the Sox starting shortstop, but hit .109 (6 for 55) and lost the job. He rebounded to have some good seasons with the club before injuries cut short his career.

The five catchers:
Art McGovern, 1905 .114 (5 for 44)
Gus Niarhos, 1952 .103 (6 for 58)
Charlie Ambruster, 1907 .100 (6 for 60)
John Marzano, 1992 .080 (4 for 50)
Ed Connolly, 1931 .075 (7 for 93)

Oddly, the player with the worst average in history (50 or more plate appearances), according to baseball-reference.com, put up his numbers this season: Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart, who was batting .064 (3 for 47) before being sent down to the minors. Stewart could still be spared that distinction if he is called back up or traded.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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