Pirates notebook: Struggling McDonald cut loose

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 7:39 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — James McDonald finally is healthy enough to resume his career as a big league pitcher, but he will not do it with the Pirates.

The Pirates reinstated McDonald from the 60-day disabled list Saturday and immediately designated him for assignment.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the timing of the move was designed “to give (McDonald) an opportunity to catch on with another team while the major league season is on.”

McDonald is making $3.025 million this year. With two years of arbitration eligibility left, he would have been even pricier if the Pirates wanted to bring him back next season.

“We did not see that coming to fruition at those kind of dollars,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “He feels healthy and ready to compete, but we've got guys ahead of him. We talked to his agent, and rather than bringing him up and just letting him sit here, we decided to make a change.”

The right-hander has been out of action since May 1 due to what the team termed “right shoulder discomfort.” On July 2, McDonald was examined by orthopedic specialist Dr. Keith Meister, who found no structural damage in the shoulder.

McDonald started six games this season and went 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP. He made 10 mostly lackluster rehab outings with rookie-level Bradenton, High-A Bradenton, Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.

“I think he tried hard,” Hurdle said. “He tried to figure it out. The coaches tried to coach. At the end of the day, sometimes things just don't work. It just didn't come together for James.”

Last year, McDonald earned the moniker “King James” by going 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA before the All-Star break. In the second half of the season, however, he went 3-5 with a 7.52 ERA and eventually was booted from the starting rotation.

Burnett's St. Louis blues

Right-hander A.J. Burnett was pulled Friday after giving up five runs in three innings. It was his shortest outing since May 2, 2012, when he allowed 12 runs in 2 23 innings, also against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium

In four career starts at the new Busch Stadium, Burnett has a 13.50 ERA. He had a 2.08 ERA in three outings at the old ballpark, which was demolished after the 2005 season.

“They seem to get hold of me here,” Burnett said. “I don't make pitches here. I haven't, but I will. They've got a good lineup. Point your finger at me, not the ballpark.”

Burnett won't have to worry about pitching at Busch Stadium again this year — unless the Pirates meet the Cardinals in the playoffs.

Around the horn

Before the game Saturday, Starling Marte was activated off the DL. ... Right-hander Brandon Cumpton was recalled from Indy. Hurdle said Cumpton could be used in relief to piggyback a starter and/or to make a spot start. ... Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (forearm tightness, arthritis), who made a rehab start Friday, will be re-evaluated Sunday. If he feels well enough, Rodriguez could make a 75-pitch rehab start Thursday for Low-A West Virginia if it is still alive in the South Atlantic League playoffs. The Pirates' 40-man roster is full, so a corresponding move must be made when Rodriguez comes off the DL.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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