Pirates notebook: Pirates acquire McDonald for infield insurance

The Diamondbacks' John McDonald breaks his bat against the Dodgers on Sept. 12, 2012, at Chase Field in Phoenix.
The Diamondbacks' John McDonald breaks his bat against the Dodgers on Sept. 12, 2012, at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Photo by Getty Images
Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 6:42 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Pirates acquired infielder John McDonald from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday.

McDonald, 38, can play shortstop, second base and third. He'll make $1.5 million this year.

A right-handed batter, McDonald hit .249 with six homers and a .681 on-base plus slugging percentage last season.

“First and foremost, we like the defense,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “He'll give us some versatility off the bench and allow us to rest (shortstop) Clint Barmes when appropriate.”

Over 14 seasons in the majors, McDonald has a .243 average and a .608 OPS. He has a career .975 fielding percentage after playing in 555 games at short, 205 at second, 126 at third and six in left field.

To make room for McDonald on the 40-man roster, infielder Chase d'Arnaud was placed on the 60-day disabled list. D'Arnaud will be out six to eight weeks after having surgery to reattach a torn ligament in his left thumb.

“Without the injury to Chase, we're probably not as motivated to make this (trade),” Huntington said.

Dr. Thomas Graham performed d'Arnaud's operation Monday at the Cleveland Clinic. D'Arnaud will be in a full cast for the next couple of weeks and will have a follow-up exam April 1.

“I sort of figured I needed the surgery,” d'Arnaud said. “It really stinks because I'd worked so hard this offseason. The timing is very annoying.”

McDonald's arrival could mean Brandon Inge, a non-roster invitee, will not make the Opening Day roster. Inge, who's batting .156 this spring, can opt out of his contract with the Pirates if he's not on the active roster by March 26.

“Shortstop is a position where you need to take care of the baseball,” Huntington said. “Barmes, McDonald and (Jordy) Mercer allow us to feel very comfortable doing that. Josh (Harrison) and Ivan (De Jesus Jr.) have done some good things in camp, but they're nowhere near the defensive ability of John McDonald.”

McPherson falters

If Kyle McPherson had any edge in the battle for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, it probably evaporated Wednesday. The righty worked 4 23 innings and gave up nine runs (eight earned) on 10 hits.

“I tried to establish the fastball early,” McPherson said. “I wound up giving up some of those ground balls you wish were hit towards position players, but that's how the game is.”

Four of the first eight hits McPherson yielded were airborne, including Freddie Freeman's two-run homer.

A pitcher's entire body of work is important, but late-spring outings — when mechanical flaws already should be ironed out — have some heft when management decides roster spots.

“You've got to look at everything, and that's a good lineup over there,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It is late, and we're trying to make decisions. The one thing he did do is he kept firing and kept battling. At the same time, you've got to find ways to get outs and execute with more consistency, especially as we're closing in on things.”

Around the horn

Lefty reliever Tony Watson made his first Grapefruit League appearance since Feb. 28. He gave up three straight hits, including Jordan Parraz's pinch-hit, three-run homer, then retired the next three batters. ... Bryan Morris, Pedro Alvarez and Andy Oliver were granted special fourth minor league options that can be used during the 2013 season. Alvarez signed a major league contract out of the 2008 draft. He gets the extra option because he used all three of his options before his fifth season as a pro. ... Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is scheduled to throw 85 to 90 pitches Thursday in a minor league game at Pirate City. It will be his first action since the World Baseball Classic. In two starts (9 13 innings) for WBC champ Dominican Republic, Rodriguez went 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA and gave up five hits, walked three and struck out six.

Minor matters

The Pirates released six minor league pitchers: right-handers Alexi Lukashevich and Michael Colla; and lefties Porfirio Lopez, Phillippe Valiquette, Wilson Lee and Martires Cadet. A 14th-round pick in 2008, Colla made 33 starts over the past two seasons at Double-A Altoona. ... Righty Aaron Pribanic had surgery last winter to repair a torn labrum and isn't expected back until July. Pribanic, 26, made three starts last year at Altoona.

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