Pirates notebook: Decision on McDonald will have to wait


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SEATTLE -- Decision day for the Pirates and pitcher James McDonald has been delayed.

How long is anybody's guess.

McDonald will remain on the disabled list after disclosing to the team he is still dealing with shoulder discomfort.

The Pirates were facing a decision on McDonald's future Tuesday, the end of his 30-day rehabilitation window. The team was faced with two unfavorable options: Sever ties with a once-promising pitcher or activate a player who hasn't been productive in almost a year.

The recurrence of the injury allows the Pirates to keep McDonald in the organization while he seeks treatment.

"He didn't feel hurt," said manager Clint Hurdle, who Sunday became aware of McDonald's issues. "He didn't feel the pain that he felt when he missed the start, but he's continued to have the challenge of getting loose. And that became a concern."

The Pirates originally scheduled a consultation with orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews before Andrews' office canceled the appointment due to a scheduling conflict. The next step in McDonald's evaluation is to be determined.

Hurdle said it is his understanding McDonald eventually will see Andrews, but that's "on hold" for now.

McDonald went 1-3 in four rehabilitation starts for Class AAA Indianapolis, posting a 6.53 ERA. In two prior starts with Class AA Altoona, McDonald went 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA. He struggled keeping runners off base for both teams and even more in controlling the running game.

McDonald, 28, went on the disabled list May 1 with right shoulder discomfort. He was not pitching well before his injury but insisted to reporters he was healthy.

He garnered a lot of All-Star buzz in 2012 after a brilliant first half of the season. McDonald went 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA before the All-Star break, pitching so well that teammate Neil Walker brought in paper crowns for the entire team for "King James" in his final start of the first half.

But success disappeared in the second half, when McDonald went 3-5 with a 7.52 ERA. He struggled in six starts this season, going 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA.

King Felix ... again?

In four games against the Mariners this season, the Pirates will face former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez twice.

"That's the luck of the draw," Walker said. "Unluck of the draw, I guess."

Hernandez, who is scheduled to start today, beat the Pirates May 8 at PNC Park, allowing one earned run on six hits in eight innings. In two career starts against the Pirates, Hernandez is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA.

Walker said if the Pirates want to get to the postseason, they will have to beat the best in the league.

But he admitted the odds were slim to draw Hernandez twice.

"I think there are still some guys we haven't seen in our own division," he said.

Waiting for Wandy

Pitcher Wandy Rodriguez (forearm tightness) will make at least one more rehabilitation start before returning to the rotation.

Rodriguez experienced lingering soreness Sunday after throwing 73 pitches in four innings of a rehabilitation start for Indianapolis. He was under consideration to rejoin the rotation this weekend, but the Pirates will turn to Francisco Liriano Saturday and Charlie Morton Sunday.

"He said he felt a little sore but he didn't know if it's because he hadn't been up in 18 days or sore," Hurdle said. "We want to bring him back and get a better read."

Rodriguez will throw a bullpen session Friday in Pittsburgh and will start Monday for Indianapolis.

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published June 26, 2013 4:00 AM


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