PHOENIX -- With rehabbing shortstop Stephen Drew nearing his long-awaited return to the Majors, D-backs infielder John McDonald is prepping for a change in his role with the club by taking groundballs at third base.
"As a utility player, you don't want them to hesitate to use you whenever everybody is healthy and when someone goes down," McDonald said. "It's nice when you know your manager can use you in any situation, it keeps you on your toes."
The 37-year-old has played 102 career games at third base, but only two of those have come this season.
"I played a lot of third in Toronto, and some in Cleveland -- just another position, and it's fun to play," he said. "It has its different challenges, but I've been taking a lot of ground balls."
The majority of McDonald's playing time this season has come at shortstop, including Sunday when he started and batted eighth. There are various subtle differences between the two positions, but the utility player recognizes all of them.
"It's more of a reactionary position. At short you get to read the hops and make a play," he said. "The ball stays straighter at third while at shortstop there is more fade on the ball. You also have to throw the ball to first differently because the runner comes into play. I try to play in between at third so I eliminate that longer throw from the equation."
D-backs flashing improved leather in June
PHOENIX -- In the D-backs' first 47 games of the season, the club committed 30 errors and ranked near the bottom of the National League in team fielding.
Now a month later, the team has just two errors in its last 24 contests, moving the D-backs to the top of the NL in fielding percentage at .988. Their 32 total errors are tied for second fewest in the Majors.
"Guys have slowed down and are playing the game well in all aspects," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "They are just pretty dang good, that's the way it's supposed to be, that's what you strive for. It's hard to say why things click, but knock on wood, we've picked it up pretty good."
In the middle of their defensive resurgence, the D-backs set a franchise record with 114 2/3 consecutive innings without an error that ended June 10.
"Guys just get more comfortable in positions," Gibson said. "We constantly talk and teach and try to learn by mistakes. Sometimes you make errors when you try to make great plays. We don't want to make great plays, great plays just come, it's a natural reaction. Take your out, don't try to rush something and throw it away."
The team credits much of the recent success with the extra work put in before games in taking grounders and working on footwork.
"Our coaches are tireless in preparing," Gibson said. "They have a great pregame routine, they all do it, and it's pushed by our leadership."
Kennedy's spot not likely to be moved up a day
PHOENIX -- With a day off on Monday and Joe Saunders on the disabled list, the D-backs could move Ian Kennedy's next scheduled start from Friday to Thursday and still keep him on regular rest. But as of Sunday, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson is leaning against that.
"I don't think so, no," Gibson said when asked of the possibility of moving Kennedy up. "All along I want to leave them in turn. We have a streak of 13 games before the All-Star break and a streak of 20 games after the All-Star break, so I don't think this would be a smart time to move guys up if you have the ability to give them an extra day."
That means if things don't change, the D-backs will need to either call-up a pitcher from the Minors or use Josh Collmenter again for the spot start on Thursday in Atlanta.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.