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.”