Donachie facing big challenge

Donachie hoping to stick around with Birds

JUPITER, Fla. -- The first rule of the Rule 5 Draft is clear and incontrovertible. Once you're drafted, you'll live in limbo for the next several months. Baltimore catcher Adam Donachie, who was selected by the Phillies from the Royals organization and then traded to the Orioles, is plainly living through that phenomenon this spring.

Donachie, who has played just 29 games above the Class A level, is faced with a difficult challenge. He has to prove to Baltimore that he can stick on the Major League roster all season, and if he can't, he'll be offered back to Kansas City via the waiver process. Otherwise, the O's would have to swing a trade to option him to the Minor Leagues.

For now, Donachie is dealing with his dilemma stoically and enjoying the experience while it lasts.

"It's cool to be here, but it was weird going to a different team and not really knowing anybody," he said recently. "I'm just enjoying being here in camp, having a good time and trying to soak it all in. I used to always think about where I was going to be, but right now, I'm just going to have fun and hope that everything takes care of itself."

Donachie, a former second-round draft pick, has taken a few seasons to mature. The backstop was productive at Class A High Desert in each of the last two seasons, displaying a strong sense of plate discipline and sturdy defensive skills. But when he was pushed to Double-A Wichita in 2006, he batted .191 in 94 at-bats.

While that's a tiny sample size, it doesn't provide any compelling evidence that he can hit upper-level pitching. But the Orioles didn't select him for his bat. They took him for a broad base of skills, namely his game-calling ability and strong throwing arm. And in a backup catching role, his bat may not be too much of a problem.

"We feel he's the type of player who will hit. I don't know how much he will initially, but that will be a bonus," Baltimore executive vice president of baseball operations Mike Flanagan said. "He's a good catch-and-throw guy, and we're looking at signal-calling and where he is in that stage of development. So far, he's handled it great."

Donachie doesn't just have to sell himself, though. He has to prove he can be a better backup option than veteran Paul Bako -- who signed a one-year deal for $900,000 -- and J.R. House, who has a more impressive offensive resume. It's an imposing predicament for a young player, especially one with limited experience against top competition.

"Going up there, like everyone says, it's a lot quicker and a lot faster," he said of his time at Wichita. "I had a little bit of time to adjust, and then finally at the very end, I started getting into it. But then the season's already over."

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A few seasons ago, Donachie dealt with a more imposing obstacle. The catcher was severely injured in between innings of a Minor League game by a teammate taking warmup swings in front of the dugout. Donachie sustained a fractured skull and missed an entire half-season, but he described the injury as a "freak accident."

Last year, Donachie's career turned on a strange coincidence. After struggling with Wichita, he spent an eventful month in the Arizona Fall League, where he played with several Baltimore prospects on the Grand Canyon Rafters. That's where the team's scouts took notice of him, and the rest is somewhat recent history.

"We saw him in the Arizona Fall League a lot and liked what we saw with his receiving and his throwing skills," said Flanagan, who won 167 games as a big-league pitcher. "That's really what we're focusing on the most -- how he receives the ball and how comfortable he is back there with a Major League staff."

"He's an interesting kid," Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo added. "You've just got to relax, do your thing and let it fall. He doesn't seem to be someone who's rattled or overintimidated."

Donachie said that he's tried to pick the brains of Baltimore's veteran catchers, relying on wisdom from starter Ramon Hernandez and Bako, who attended Spring Training with him in Kansas City in 2006. Slowly but surely, he's gaining knowledge of the game and confidence in his ability to do the job at the big-league level.

Not only that, he's starting to come to grips with the shock associated with his selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Donachie doesn't know where he'll be next month, but he's thankful for the turn his career has taken.

"I wasn't expecting anything like that coming. And then I got all the phone calls, and I was still overwhelmed. But it's good to be picked up -- at least someone knows you're still out there," he said. "In Kansas City, they treated me well while I was there, but coming to a new ballclub has been nice.

"I'd like to stay here and see if I have an opportunity here. Hopefully, everything goes as planned."

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