While Chad Billingsley was tuning up for the Major League season on Tuesday, McDonald was starting a Double-A game on a nearby back field, needing to look no farther than over his shoulder to see where he was compared with where he was.
McDonald was sent to Minor League camp after getting hit hard by the Padres on Friday night to the tune of six runs in 1 1/3 innings. Manager Joe Torre said that he had a good, long talk with McDonald when he sent him down.
"It was a good talk," said McDonald, "but I don't want to have no more of them. I understand I didn't perform in Spring Training."
A year ago, McDonald came out of Spring Training as the fifth starter, albeit by default. He lasted only four starts before being dropped from the rotation, soon afterward being sent to Triple-A, and after returning to the Majors, he even took a weekend detour to work with Minor League pitching guru Charlie Hough at Class A Inland Empire.
McDonald then turned around his season, reinventing himself as a long reliever with a 2.72 ERA in 41 bullpen appearances.
He went to camp this spring hoping -- but not expecting -- to force his way back onto the Major League staff and into the rotation. But he went backward, with an ERA of 20.25 -- coincidentally, the same ERA as Scott Elbert, another young pitcher the Dodgers were hoping would vie for the fifth starter job.
"I've got to get a feel for my off-speed pitches," McDonald said. "I'm not a hitter, but if I was, I wouldn't swing at my off-speed pitches if I'm not throwing them for strikes. I'd wait for a fastball."
The 25-year-old McDonald, now a starter again, pitched three innings against the Indians' Double-A team on Tuesday and agreed that he looked angry doing it.
"I don't want to be in the Minor Leagues," he said. "It's angry, but focused. Don't be pouting, there's work to do. Keep working hard, that's all I can do. I'm not happy about being in the Minor Leagues, but I feel it can fuel myself to keep going and get better."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.