GM Neal Huntington said the Pirates are committed to keeping slumping RHP James McDonald in the starting rotation. Coaches Ray Searage and Euclides Rojas and manager Clint Hurdle “have worked hard to find the best way to get J-Mac back on track,” Huntington said today. “For about an 11-hitter stretch, we thought we had him back on track. We got him too big of a lead. Maybe next time, we don’t get him as big of a lead because he seemed to take his foot off the gas.”
McDonald blew a 7-1 lead Friday against the Padres. He worked 4 1/3 innings and yielded seven runs on seven hits, walked one and struck out four. “We’re looking at, are there changes in his stuff? Are there changes in his mechanics? Are there changes in his approach or mentality?” Huntington said. “We see J-Mac as a very good starting pitcher for us for years to come. We’re trying to find the best way to get him back on track.”
»»» LHP Justin Wilson almost certainly will be a September callup, given that he’s being shifted to the bullpen at Triple-A Indy. “We’re trying to give Clint a second left-hander,” Huntington said. “We looked at it aggressively at the trade deadline, but guys we liked (were either) unavailable or the prospect cost was too much. As we looked internally, Justin has more than enough stuff to pitch effectively in that role. In a perfect world, we don’t want to bring a guy to the big leagues and have him do something that he hasn’t done before.” Last season, Wilson made nine relief outings, but always entered the game to start an inning and never went back-to-back days. Now, he’ll get some mid-inning outings and some on consecutive days.
Wilson started a couple of days ago for Indy only because LHP Jeff Locke was called up. Huntington indicated Locke will head back to Indy once the Pirates get through this demanding stretch of 20 games in 20 days. “Jeff’s built up his innings well enough that we’re not concerned about his innings count, going into next year,” Huntington said. “It’s not like he’s a real hard thrower with max effort delivery. He does things smooth, easy and free. But at some point we do want to get him a few starts (at Indy) before the end of the season.”
»»» OF Josh Bell continues to be bothered by swelling in his knee as he recovers from surgery at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. Bell’s missed a lot of time this season, but probably is not a candidate to be sent to winter ball. Instead, the Pirates remain hopeful he can still get in some time with Low-A West Virginia, then make up more at-bats in Instructional League this offseason.