Newest J. McDonald on Pirates roster is ultimate professional
March 23, 2013 8:00 AM
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
The Pirates' newest addition: Infielder John McDonald.
By Michael Sanserino Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates now have two J. McDonalds on their roster. But there still is only one JMac, Travis Snider explained.
Snider was teammates with the newest Pirate -- John McDonald -- in Toronto a few years ago and said James McDonald's "JMac" nickname is safe.
"I've never called him 'JMac' in however many years I've known John now," Snider said. "'Johnny Mac' is what I've become accustomed to calling him.
"Or 'Dad' sometimes," he joked.
At age 38, McDonald isn't quite old enough to be the dad of Snider, 25. But Snider had always looked up to his former teammate.
"First thing I said when he got traded over he is that he's the ultimate pro," Snider said. "He's a model ballplayer. He's a model man, model father. He was a great influence on me the first couple years of my career, and I'm looking forward to spending as much time with him as I can."
McDonald started playing in Toronto the same year the Blue Jays drafted Snider, 2006. The Blue Jays traded McDonald to the Diamondbacks in 2011, and then traded Snider to the Pirates last year.
"He's the youngest looking 38-year-old I've ever met," Snider said.
The veteran infielder joined his new teammates Friday morning at McKechnie Field, a little groggy from the time change, having spent the past few weeks with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Cactus League. But he was excited for the new opportunity.
"I was in a great situation out in Arizona the last two years," he said. "I was quite aware something was going to happen -- we had too many middle infielders."
The Pirates acquired McDonald on Wednesday in return for a player to be named later or cash. He will be the primary backup for shortstop Clint Barmes.
It's a role he has adopted the past several years, and the Pirates added him for his veteran experience coming off the bench.
"I think it's an extremely tough job to do -- to sit for a couple weeks and then get up to go out there and play defense in the eighth inning of a tie ballgame, and be perfect," he said. "But the challenge of that is something I think about all the time. It's something that I want."
The Pirates optioned right-handed reliever Bryan Morris to Class AAA Indianapolis and reassigned infielders Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Jared Goedert to minor league camp Friday morning.
Morris, 25, had a 5.14 ERA in seven appearances this spring and had burned up his third and final option last season. But the Pirates applied, and were granted, a fourth option year for Morris, which allowed the club to send Morris to Indianapolis without fear of losing him to another team.
"That's the unfortunate part about some of the decisions late in camp -- guys with and without options sometimes comes into play when there's not clear separation," general manager Neal Huntington said. "In Bryan's case, there's very little doubt he's going to help us at some point in the spring or the summer."
Morris made his major league debut last year, posting a 1.80 ERA in five appearances.
"Whenever I got my opportunities, I wasn't as sharp as I should have been," Morris said about his spring performance. "That's part of the game. Hopefully, I can go down there and get back to what I need to be doing."
The Pirates acquired DeJesus, once considered a top prospect, in a six-player trade that sent Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox this offseason. In 20 games this spring, DeJesus, 25, hit .387 with one home run and two RBIs.
But the Pirates acquired veteran infielder John McDonald this week to backup shortstop Clint Barmes, making DeJesus' path to the opening day roster a bit more difficult.
Goedert, 27, hit .214 in 19 spring training games.
Rotation decisions coming
The Pirates have seen enough from Jonathan Sanchez to make a decision about his future with the team, Huntington said.
But the Pirates won't make a decision about the team's rotation until taking a look at the other three contenders: Kyle McPherson, John Locke and Jeanmar Gomez.
Signed to a minor league contract, Sanchez can request his release Sunday if he is not added to the major league roster.
The Pirates have until Tuesday to honor that request or add him to the roster.
"Jonathan has a lot of things working in his favor, but we're also still looking forward to Gomez, McPherson and Locke," Huntington said.
Sanchez has not allowed a run in his past two starts, issuing just one walk over eight innings.
Infielder Brandon Inge was scratched from the lineup because of "lingering discomfort" after being hit by a pitch on his shoulder March 14, the team announced.
Of note: After pitching four scoreless innings to start the spring, reliever Mike Zagurski has allowed runs -- and home runs -- in each of his past three outings. His ERA is now 7.71.
News of the day: After his team fell in an early hole, outfielder Felix Pie helped pull things even with an RBI double in the third inning. Signed this offseason to a minor league contract, Pie is hitting .308 this spring with two home runs, eight RBIs and a .988 OPS. "It was a tough year for me in 2011, 2012," Pie said. "But now I feel good with everything, more consistent. I've worked hard this spring, and so far, everything is going well." A former top prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization, Pie hasn't played in the major leagues since 2011. His career never blossomed as many had expected, but the Pirates hope he can recapture some of the skill that made him a top prospect. He is fighting for a spot on the bench as one of the team's reserve outfielders, and being a left-handed hitter could help him achieve that goal. "To his advantage, playing winter ball, he came in sharp," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was game-ready. He stayed game-ready. Everything we've asked him to do, he's done. ... A very good spring."
Buried treasure: Major League Baseball will honor the victims of the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., by having players, managers and umpires wear memorial patches on opening day and a moment of silence at all ballparks. ... Infielder John McDonald was assigned No. 80 to wear during spring training. A lock to make the team, McDonald said he hopes a lower number is "negotiable" for the regular season. "As long as I have a spot in the locker room." ... Minor leaguer Stefan Welch hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to lift the Pirates' to a win Friday.