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McDonald could exit rotation temporarily

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at CUBS2:20 p.m. Sunday, Wrigley Field

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Probable pitchers: Pirates LHP Jeff Locke (0-1, 4.11) vs. Cubs RHP Chris Volstad (3-10, 5.99)

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, 6:12 p.m.

CHICAGO — Pirates right-hander James McDonald is listed as the starting pitcher Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers, but there is a chance he soon could be replaced in the rotation by rookie Kyle McPherson.

Manager Clint Hurdle spoke privately with both pitchers Friday after McDonald was roughed up for four runs in 3 23 innings against the Cubs. Hurdle was asked Saturday if McDonald will skip a start.

“I'm just going to pass on that question for now,” Hurdle said. “We're doing some internal talking about a lot of different areas.”

McDonald said in postgame interviews that he has at times lacked confidence on the mound and thinks too much before pitching. He gave the same admission to Hurdle.

“Good feedback is important, but we need action to follow it up,” Hurdle said. “You always look for what is going to trigger a level of commitment that's significant. Sometimes you've got to look at the option of taking something away from somebody. That's always an option. But is it at the top of the list? I wouldn't say that.

“You're looking to find a key to unlock something. That's the challenge you have with young players — sometimes it takes different keys. Not one key works with everybody. We're trying to find the keys to unlock him. And we're running out of time.”

Morris makes debut

Before he stepped on a big league mound for the first time, reliever Bryan Morris got chills just walking from the clubhouse to the dugout at Wrigley Field.

Morris pitched in his first game Friday and needed just nine pitches to set down the Cubs in order in the eighth inning.

“To be able to make my debut in a place like this, I'm kind of at a loss for words,” Morris said. “I walked through the hallway, and all I could think about is all the legends who have been through the same hall. It gets to me a little bit because this is what I've been working toward my whole life.”

Morris was one of four players acquired in the July 2008 Jason Bay trade. Of those, Morris is the only one still with the Pirates.

The right-hander was recalled Monday from Triple-A Indianapolis, where he went 2-2 with five saves and a 2.67 ERA in 46 outings. He also was called up June 24 but spent only 24 hours with the team and never left the bench.

On Friday, Morris retired Luis Valbuena, Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano on two grounders and a fly out. Morris unknowingly helped tie a franchise record, as it was the fifth time the Pirates used eight pitchers in a nine-inning game.

“I wouldn't say I was nervous,” Morris said. “I had adrenaline that I did my best to keep down. After that first guy got out, I was all right.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7811.

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