McDonald thinks he now knows key to consistency
By Karen Price
Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Most of the questions about the Pirates' starting rotation this season revolve around health.
The questions about James McDonald, however, revolve around consistency.
Which McDonald will the Pirates see Thursday when the No. 3 starter makes his 2013 debut: the guy who began the 2012 season 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and a .973 WHIP in his first 17 starts or the guy who finished it 3-5 with a 7.52 ERA and a WHIP of 1.79 in his last 12 starts?
McDonald thinks he knows the answer to why he fell off so sharply in the second half and believes it has to more to do with his mentality than anything.
“I think I need to keep that chip on my shoulder, never feel relaxed, never feel at ease on the mound,” he said. “I need to always feel like I'm in a situation where I need to get this guy out right then and there. I think at times I've kind of eased back and I'll look around and I've got the bases loaded with one out. I need to keep my foot on the gas and just have that mentality from pitch one.”
Realizing there is a difference between being comfortable versus too comfortable on the mound is a step. Given that McDonald made the statement after struggling through a rough first inning in his final start of spring against the Double-A Altoona Curve, however, may indicate that there is still a difference between knowledge and execution.
“I think at times James just tries to feel his way through things, and one of the things we continue to stress with him ... he just needs to go out and make pitches,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He probably got another wake-up call before the season goes about what (he's) got to do to be successful, what (he's) got to do to compete and what (he's) got to do to give our team a chance to win. Those sequences (Saturday) weren't clean, and he knows that better than anybody.”
The 28-year-old finished 2012 with an ERA identical to the year before (4.21). He pitched the same number of innings (171) in 2011 and 2012 and won three more games last year for a career high of 12.
McDonald said this was one of his better springs, and he feels more prepared going into this season than he has in years past.
Last season, the right-hander developed his slider to use behind his fastball and curveball, and the addition was cited as part of the reason for his early success. This year, McDonald said he'll go with whatever's working, and it could be a different pitch each game.
“Whatever's the hot pitch going into that game, I'm going to run with,” he said. “I feel like everything's a weapon right now. I could get a guy out on a curveball if I wanted to or a slider if I wanted to. I feel like all my weapons are pretty good right now.”
Should McDonald struggle early, time may not be on his side. The Pirates have Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton and Jeff Karstens all at varying stages of progress toward returning to the rotation, and as they get healthy, Hurdle will have decisions to make.
“These guys all understand in the three, four and five spots that we've got guys coming back,” Hurdle said. “It's not a threat. It is what it is.”
Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at email@example.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Top pitching prospect Taillon’s time with Pirates must wait a bit
- Pirates notebook: Martin finding power stroke
- Spring training breakdown: Orioles 7, Pirates 6
- Pirates reserve outfielder Dickerson is also at home on soccer pitch
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- Stats Corner: McCutchen’s contract extension brings huge cost savings
- Pirates seek to tap Alvarez’s remaining upside
- Pirates look for repeat performance of cost-efficient bullpen
- Pirates’ Wilk thrown a curve in South Korea
- Pirates notebook: Volquez, Morton struggle
- Leyland content in new role with Tigers, rules out a return to Pirates