Scouting Jason Donald at third base

(Photo: Philly Baseball News)

Jason Donald has worked very hard to become a solid defensive shortstop. Now, he's working just as hard to become a solid defensive third baseman, which could become his ticket to the majors.

Jason Donald just moved to his right about 30 feet, but the move could become one of the biggest that he's ever made. With the Phillies infield wrapped up long-term with the exception of one position, Donald moved to third base for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, with an eye on playing that spot in Philadelphia before too long.

"I'm getting used to playing there," said Donald of his move to third base. "I played there a little last fall [in the Arizona Fall League] and I've worked on learning the footwork, but there is still a lot that I have to perfect before I'm really comfortable there."

Donald played nine games at third for Mesa in the AFL last fall and made two errors in those nine games. Of course, in his first appearance at third this season, the first ball hit to him became an error.

'Pigs manager Dave Huppert thinks Donald will be able to handle playing at third base. "I think the biggest adjustment will be in how quickly the ball gets to him," explained Huppert. "At short, you have that split second longer to decide how to play the game that you don't have at third. Jason is a good athlete and can handle the adjustment."

Right now, Donald is still adjusting, but he's only played three games there this season after the nine that he played there last fall and a handful from spring training. Already though, Donald is looking a little more comfortable at the position. Early in the season, Huppert said that when he did move Donald to third, he would give him some extended time there to really allow him to settle in. The plan is for Donald to also play some second base this season and Huppert also plans on that being for an extended period rather than just a few games here and there.

If Donald can truly learn to play third and handle the position defensively well enough to hold down the position at the major league level, then his road to the majors is blocked only for the remainder of the season. With incumbent Pedro Feliz being a free agent after the season, Donald could step in and give the Phillies an all home-grown infield for 2010 and beyond. Plan B would be for Donald to adjust to third and second well enough so that he could play three positions in the majors as a utility infielder, but that's only a backup plan for now.

Donald's defensive skills at shortstop aren't amazing, but he's adequate at the position. Adjusting to the difference in time to make a play, the mechanics of playing third and making throws to first from across the diamond - which he almost picked up another error for in his first game at third this season - may take some time. In his first few games, Donald has shaken off some of the tentativeness that he showed in his first few innings there this season and seemed to recover some of the skills that he learned last fall.

It's worth noting that Donald's defense at short has been flawless this season. He has invested a great deal of time and effort into his defensive skills and looks to have the ability to cover any of the positions that the Phillies may want him to learn on the infield. With third base being the only potential opening for Donald in Philadelphia, it would make sense for him to spend a good chunk of his season playing the position for Lehigh Valley this summer.

Another scenario would be for the Phillies to make Donald available as a major league ready shortstop in a deal to acquire another piece or two of the puzzle for the big league club come trade deadline time in July.

For now though, Donald is just playing wherever they tell him to play and giving each position a fair chance.

"I just focus on right now. When I'm playing at third, I don't think about shortstop or second. I honestly haven't wasted time focusing on what might happen, because what I do now will set that course, anyway," believes Donald.

Jason Donald's fielding stats

Through Sunday, May 3

SEASON / TEAM POS G TC PO A E DP Fld%
2006 Batavia SS 62 218 65 144 9 19 .959
2007 Lakewood SS 51 265 91 159 15 28 .943
2007 Clearwater SS 83 313 106 197 10 49 .968
2008 Reading SS 91 353 130 205 18 47 .949
2009 Lehigh Valley SS 20 114 35 79 0 16 1.000
2009 Lehigh Valley 3B 3 5 1 3 1 0 .800
TOTALS   310 1268 428 787 53 159 .958


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