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Eckstein unfazed by substitution

Eckstein unfazed by substitution

TORONTO -- For David Eckstein, it's all about the bottom line: winning ballgames. As cliche as that might sound, that was the only reaction the Blue Jays' shortstop offered in response to the club's decision to turn to John McDonald for late-inning defense.

After running through pregame fielding drills at Rogers Centre on Tuesday, Eckstein wasn't about to counter the recent change implemented by Toronto. From now on, the Jays plan on pulling Eckstein in favor of McDonald's steady glove in the later stages of close games.

"That's the decision they came up and told me," Eckstein said. "And that's it. We're out here trying to win games and that's the only thing that really matters right now. So that's it."

The switch strays from the line of thinking Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had discussed throughout the season's first month. Gibbons waited until Monday to finally use the new strategy, sending McDonald into the game against the White Sox in the ninth inning of an eventual 1-0 Toronto win.

Eckstein, who was signed to a one-year contract worth $4.5 million over the offseason to be the Jays' regular shortstop and leadoff hitter, said that his feelings on the situation weren't important.

"Everyone knows that feelings don't really matter in this scenario," Eckstein said. "The only thing that matters is going out there and winning games. That's the decision they made and, being a professional, you just have to go out there and keep trying to do your best."

Gibbons said he made sure to discuss the matter with Eckstein before making an in-game substitution with McDonald, who is one of the best defensive shortstops in the Major Leagues. Echoing Eckstein's comments, Gibbons said it was important to meet with the shortstop, who completely understood the decision.

"Eck's the ultimate winner -- a team guy," Gibbons said. "He understands that we have a shortstop that's arguably the best defensive player in the game out there. You're not going to have any problems with Eck. He's got one thing on his mind and that's to win.

"You've got to let them all know what's going on, especially when you do something like that. I've got great respect for Eck, with what he's accomplished in the game and what he's going to do for us over the course of a season.

"We wouldn't be doing it if we didn't have the guy who is in the top of the league in what he does. Otherwise, we wouldn't even consider it."

The move coincides with Toronto's decision to slide Eckstein down to the ninth spot in the lineup -- the same slot typically occupied by McDonald on days he starts. Entering Tuesday, Eckstein was batting .239 with a .310 on-base percentage and six errors in the field in 29 games for the Jays.

Eckstein was asked if he agreed with the decision to use McDonald in late-game scenarios, but he danced around the question, maintaining his original stance.

"It doesn't matter," Eckstein said. "We're here to win games and that's the only thing that matters."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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