After insisting he was not injured as he struggled through most of six outings this season, Pirates starter James McDonald went on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with right shoulder discomfort, two hours before he was scheduled to pitch against the Seattle Mariners at PNC Park.
McDonald has not been the same pitcher since the 2012 All-Star break and posted a 5.76 ERA through six starts this season. He allowed seven earned runs in his most recent outing April 30 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
After that start, McDonald said he was healthy.
"I feel fine," McDonald said at the time.
But a lack of command and a decrease in velocity have plagued him this season.
Earlier in the year, when his velocity issues were more pronounced, McDonald said he was not injured, though he felt a bit "beat up." Then, he said the best thing for him was to increase his workload and try and pitch through his issues.
"He wasn't the same James McDonald we saw the first 31/2, four months last year," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Any time a pitcher's velocity is down, you wonder what's the cause. But prior to the recent event -- we'd checked with him, we'd worked with him and tried to find out if this might have been the cause. To James' credit, he didn't use this as an excuse."
Jeanmar Gomez pitched in McDonald's place against the Mariners. Gomez and minor leaguer Andy Oliver are among the candidates to replace McDonald in the rotation. Former first overall pick Gerrit Cole is not, Huntington said.
The move to the disabled list is retroactive to May 1, the day after McDonald's most recent outing, and the Pirates recalled infielder Josh Harrison to take McDonald's spot on the 25-man roster.
Harrison already was in Pittsburgh in case outfielder Jose Tabata, battling a hamstring injury, was not healthy enough to play off the bench. The Pirates likely will call up pitcher Duke Welker and add him to the bullpen today.
McDonald's immediate future in the Pirates rotation was in jeopardy already with Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton poised to join the roster after battling their own injuries. The Pirates also could call up Cole as soon as the end of this month.
If the injury is not serious, the trip to the DL could work in the Pirates favor. McDonald is out of options, and the Pirates can use this as an opportunity to work through his problems without it affecting the major league team. Given his past success, it is unlikely McDonald would have cleared waivers had he been designated for assignment.
Once named the pitcher with the best command in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, McDonald struggled with location this season. He hit three batters in April after hitting four over the entire 2012 season, and his walks-per-nine-innings ratio is at a career high.
His 20 walks were the most by a National League pitcher through six starts.
Martin is scratched, too
The Pirates also scratched starting catcher Russell Martin from the starting lineup Tuesday because of a stiff neck. He was replaced by Michael McKenry. Martin is listed as "day-to-day."
Walker's stitches out
Second baseman Neil Walker had six stitches removed from his right hand Tuesday, 11 days after sustaining a deep cut when Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma landed on his hand. Walker, on the 15-dayDL, will begin a rehabilitation assignment Thursday with Class AA Altoona and will play at least two games with the Curve. He could rejoin the Pirates in New York this weekend, Hurdle said.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 or Twitter @msanserino. First Published May 8, 2013 4:00 AM