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McDonald looking for a change

James McDonald is working this spring to rediscover his changeup. (Reuters photo)

James McDonald is working this spring to rediscover his changeup. (Reuters photo)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — James McDonald is dedicated this spring to rediscovering his changeup. The pitch was one of McDonald’s best weapons in the minors because it pairs so well with his nasty fastball. “If you throw a changeup off a good, live fastball, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a strike,” McDonald said. “If it starts out in the vicinity of looking like a strike, you’re going to get swings and rollovers. It’s a pitch that can get you out of a lot of jams.”

McDonald throws his change with a four-seam grip, so it looks like a regular fastball coming out of his hand. the pitch has morphed over the years as he’s gotten more arm strength. It used to have mostly up-and-down movement, but now has a bit of fade acton.

However, McDonald never quite got the feel for his changeup last season. He hesitated to use it in tough situations, becoming more predictable and more hittable. “So I told myself I really wanted to work on that this spring, to be able to throw it whenever and against whoever I want,” McDonald said. “It’s a pitch you have to feel. If you haven’t thrown it for a long time and you start throwing it again, it’s not sharp right away. You’ve got to throw it and throw it. One day, there it is. You just find it. Once you feel it, you’ll know.”

»»» Starling Marte extended his hit streak to eight with a solo homer in the eighth inning. But his run ended in the 10th, when he flew out to right field. Marte is batting .692 with two homers and threee RBI. “Spring training evaluations are bad evaluations, more often than not, but it’s been fun to watch him hit,” GM Neal Huntington said. “He’s hit some breaking balls. He’s destroyed some fastballs. He has unbelievable speed.” Will Marte be with the club on Opening Day? For Huntington’s answer to that question, you’ll have to read tomorrow’s Trib.

»»» Lefty Justin Wilson was super-effective in his spring debut against the Orioles, tossing two scoreless innings with a walk and three strikeouts. He struggled today against the Phillies, allowing a run on one hit in two-thirds of an inning. After Jim Thome singled to center, Wilson issued two-out walks to Ty Wigginton, John Mayberry and Laynce Nix to force in a run. “I got out of my rhythm,” Wilson said. “The game sped up on me a little bit. I should’ve taken a step back and slowed down.”



  1. Lady Di says:

    Face it: McDonald is a middle reliever with a good team, a No. 3 starter with a bad one.

  2. Curt says:

    I’d like to see Marte make the roster, but he will end up in Indy.

    Any interest from the Pirates taking another run at Roy Oswalt since his demands have been lowered and wants to pitch anywhere he can?

  3. Ernest says:

    Think Oswalt is willing to wait until later in the season when guys on good teams get injured and need to be replaced.

  4. Ryan (Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    Lady Di: face it, you really don’t know what you are talking about..but its ok, one can wish and hope they make sense.

  5. Ryan (Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    No way Marte is on the Opening Day roster…maybe a summertime call up, but why do it now…UNLESS Presley just completly stinks it up

  6. Jay Walker says:

    Ryan: Actually, Lady Di knows more than most of the people on this site. She’s right about McDonald, too.

  7. Lady Di says:

    Thanks for the love, J-Walk.

  8. Jeff says:

    Lady Di could be more wrong Jay Walker. With MacDonald’s stuff he could be a number 2 or 3 in most rotations. He just needs to work on consistency.

  9. Rick says:

    McDonald went 9 – 9 last year for a losing team and it was his first full year as a starter. I think we’ll see improvement from him this year. Jeff is correct about the consistency. He would have one or two great starts than falter. When he’s on, he is very good. I’m hoping he makes Lady Di eat her words this year.

  10. Rick says:

    Also, His ERA improved AFTER the All start break.

  11. Durden says:

    No love for Lady Di here. Lady Di could not be more wrong. J-Mac has the stuff of a starting pitcher and deserves a chance to be a starter.

  12. PetroSteel says:

    Too soon to tell on McDonald. Lady di might be right or he could be a solid 2 or 3 starter. Just too early to tell at this point. BUT, he does have very good potential. At this point, I think a solid 2 or 3 is very possible.

  13. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    The biggest issue with J-Mac was his stamina. Why he struggled to get through the 6th was his biggest downfall. He’s going to be a great starter for this team. As long as the offense can back him up some.

  14. Lady Di says:

    Jeff: I’ll bet you McDonald doesn’t win more than 12 games and pitches more than 200 innnings. Name the price, pal.

  15. Harry says:

    Yeah, all McDonald needs is to be consistent. Him and about 10 million other big league wannabes.

  16. Van Man says:

    A solid No. 2 starter wins 15-plus games and pitches 210-plus innings. Don’t see either one for McDonald in the future. He’s a five-and-fly guy.

  17. Jay Walker says:

    Lady Di — Don’t think Jeff has the testosterone for that kind of thing.

  18. chris says:

    Van man, only 16 pitchers in 2011 made your criteria of a solid number 2 starter.

    Also I’m definitely willing to give jmac the chance to be a starter. We know he came back from his injury too early last year and that might explain his first four starts being so bad. If he walks fewer batters then that will go a long way to help him get through seven innings more regularly.

  19. Van Man says:

    Chris: I said “solid” No. 2 starter. Obviously, the vast majority are average or worse. Anyone who believes McDonald is a dependable top-of-rotation guy either drinks black-and-gold Kool-Aid or hasn’t seen him pitch much.

  20. Jay Walker says:

    Funny, but whenever I watch McDonald, he does pitch like No. 2, if you know what I mean.

  21. Cory says:

    Forget McDonald. Andrew Lambo was supposed to be the key to the Dotel trade. Dude is an absolute nutcase, I’m told, not to mention a lousy hitter.

  22. chris says:

    I know you said solid number 2 starter, but only three teams in 2011 had two starters with at least 15 wins and 210 innings. And I don’t think anyone is trying to compare jmac to cliff lee or dan haren.

    He pitched 170 innings in his first year as a full time starter, and outside of his first 4 starts he had an ERA of 3.6. He’s got good pitches, and if he learns to get his pitches per batter down then he can get more innings. He deserves a chance as a starter.

  23. Dejan Shortpants says:

    J-Walk: LMAO (again)!

  24. Gabriel says:

    My predictions:

    Morton: 20-6 record, 3.15 ERA, All-Star.
    Karstens: 16-12, 2.65 ERA, All-Star.
    McDonald: 15-9, 3.35 ERA.
    Bedard: 12-4, 3.50 ERA.
    Correia: 10-7, 3.75 ERA
    Burnett: 8-1, 2.25 ERA
    Hanrahan: 58 saves, 0.65 ERA, All-Star

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