I wanted to make note of Jeff "Screech" Fiorentino's return to the Orioles, but it turns out that I've already posted my one and only card of him. Instead, here's another former high draft pick of the O's who has had a circuitous path back to the major leagues.
Darnell McDonald was a two-sport high school athlete from Colorado when Baltimore made him their first-round pick (26th overall) in the 1997 draft. The club enticed him to turn down a football scholarship to the University of Texas, and he made a steady (if unexceptional) ascent through the minor leagues. He also endured the death of his mother Nina in 1999, which caused him to briefly question his desire to continue playing. As spring training drew to a close in 2004, the 25-year-old was told that he had made the big league team. He had boarded the plane and made arrangements to send his car to Baltimore when he was informed at the last moment that he was being sent to Ottawa to make room for Rule 5 draftee Jose Bautista. Darnell finally did make his debut later that month, but played in just 17 games for the O's in a few separate stints, collecting only 5 hits in thirty-two at-bats (.156 average), including a hitless run for the duration of his September callup. That would bring an end to his time in the Orioles system.
The Indians signed McDonald for 2005, as he'd played out his seven-year obligation to the Birds. Unfortunately, this also kick-started the itinerant phase of the outfielder's career; he was released by the Tribe that June and has plied his trade for five organizations in the past five seasons. Until this year, he'd seen a lot of AAA ballparks (877 games) and not nearly as many big league parks (4 games with the Twins in 2007 in addition to the 17 with the Orioles). Finally, at age 30, he made the Reds' Opening Day roster in 2009 and even started in center field when Willy Taveras came down with the flu. Again, he struggled, hitting .175 and getting sent down to AAA in late May.
But there's still time for Darnell to rewrite history. He was recalled late last month and is on a 5-for-13 streak, bringing his average up to .226. On Sunday, he hit his first career major league home run, a memorable moment in what has been a twelve-year odyssey. As the Birds and the Reds each play out the string in September, I'll be keeping tabs on McDonald.