McDonald Gets Butterflies in First Spring Outing

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Butterflies. Nerves. Anticipation. That’s how right-hander James McDonald felt when he took the mound for his first Spring Training game on Saturday afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays. After going through two weeks of Spring Training workouts, conditioning, and bullpens, McDonald was anxious for his first start this morning.

“It’s good to feel those nerves again, just to feel that anticipation. The nerves when you get to the mound,” McDonald said. “Just that feeling [when] I woke up this morning knowing I was going to pitch. Butterflies. To me, I like the feeling…It was exciting to feel all that.”

After throwing a 1-2-3 first inning, striking out All-Star slugger Jose Bautista, McDonald gave up two runs in his second inning of work.

“The first inning was very clean and efficient,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “I thought he still threw some good off-speed pitches in the second inning. The one thing with Mac, he’s got to trust his front side. When the front gets in a hurry and pulls, he misses high and wide…That’s all part of that –getting the adrenaline out, getting out on the field…His arm looked healthy. His velocity looked sound. He spun some good pitches.”

McDonald started the second frame by issuing a leadoff four-pitch walk to Adam Lind. Edwin Encarnacion followed with a broken bat single to left field. With two outs, Brett Lawrie hit a two-run double into left center field, before being able to end the inning.

In his first start, McDonald allowed two runs on two hits with a walk and a strikeout over two innings. McDonald threw 33 pitches, 19 for strikes.

“It was good,” McDonald said of his first outing. “I wanted to throw strikes, throw strikes with all my pitches. So it was pretty good. It wasn’t more or less me trying to go out there and, I got to get this guy out with this. This is how I get this guy out. I think the first couple starts for me, throw what I need to work on.”

The bats were quiet for the Bucs, only being able to answer with one run off the Blue Jays arms in the 7-1 loss in Dunedin. After going four hitless innings, the Pirates put a run on the board in the 5th. With two outs, Gorkys Hernandez hit a single to right field, then swipped second base and scored on a RBI single by Michael McKenry.

Relief outings by Chris Leroux, Tony Watson and Daniel McCutchen combined for five runs over their three innings of work. But Hurdle said you’ve got to use your eyes more during Spring Training, more so then the stats sometimes.

“Leroux’s inning, a fastball just up over the plate. The guy drills it, then he cuts up thee hitters,” Hurdle said.

In Watson’s outing, after giving up a single to Bautista and hitting Encarnacion by a pitch, Brett Lawrie hit a two-out double into center field when Starling Marte misreading the ball in the strong winds at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

“Watson’s, I think [was] a clean break by Marte away from getting out of that inning,” Hurdle said.

“There’s a lot of different ways to look at this,” Hurdle said. “When you play in an environment such as this one, as in Arizona, I think you’ve got to use a filter. The ground always hard. The wind usually blows. You look at hard hit balls that get smoked for outs, then get balls that are dumped in for hits. You just got to use your eyes. You got to use your eyes as much as you got to use the numbers.”

Game Notes:

  • Right hander Brad Lincoln followed McDonald in relief allowing two deep fly balls to right, and struck out Bautista; Chris Resop: IP, BB; Tony Watson: IP, 4H, 3R, K, HBP; Daniel McCutchen: IP, 2H, R, K; Ryota Igarashi: IP, 2K
  • Chris Leroux gave up a leadoff home run to left fielder Eric Thames, then struck out the side in his inning of work. Final line: IP, H, R, 3K.
  • Despite losing 7-1 in Dunedin, the Pirates still played the bottom of the 9th inning to get reliever Juan Cruz some work. Although his outing wasn’t recorded, Cruz allowed one hit over his one frame.
  • In the 6th inning, Josh Harrison was hit by pitch on his left elbow, but remained in the game. In the clubhouse, Harrison said that the elbow felt sore and was swollen, but is okay. Hurdle also confirmed after the game that everything was fine with Harrison.
  • For the second straight game, the Pirates saw speed on the base paths. Today both Gorkys Hernandez and Josh Harrison stole a bag.

Sunday Game Info:

  • Lefty Erik Bedard will start for the Pirates in the Spring opener at McKechnie Field against Toronto. He will face fellow south paw Aaron Laffey. Following Bedard in relief are: Shairon Martis (2 innings), Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli, Doug Slaten, Evan Meek and Daniel Moskos.
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  • John Lease

    Well, the Blue Jays pitchers pitched in the same conditions.  Not too good of a start.

    • Ian Rothermund

       That’s true….as commentary on that game, I’m more concerned by the lack of offense in the first game than McDonald’s pitching.

  • Ian Rothermund

    And this start of McDonald’s matters what?   Absolutely nothing, that’s what.  If you have any negative feelings towards the two innings he pitched today, it’s probably because you have no idea what Spring Training is about or what its purpose is.  James McDonald still has the best stuff on the staff, I don’t care if he gave up 3 grand slams today, that’s still what’s up……period.

    • John Lease

      It’s competition against another team.  If it didn’t matter, they wouldn’t schedule any games, would they?  I suggest de-caf coffee.

      • Ian Rothermund

         It’s glorified practice.  They’ve been in Florida for 2 weeks.  Realistically, they’re only looking for a couple back-up guys for the infield and seeing who’s making the cut to start the season in the bullpen.

        If it was during the season, what happens if McDonald goes on to pitch 5 or 6 innings and doesn’t give up anymore runs.  It’s about players like this getting their work in and getting in shape.  It’s about Walker, McCutchen, and Alvarez getting swings in and working out their approach, not hitting .350 with 10 HRs in a month. 

        I can tell you right now that even if Cutch were to hit .150 with 2 HR in Spring Training, he’d still be starting in CF and hitting 3rd opening day.

        Yes, I’d like to see the guys hit the ground running, but ultimately Spring Training is meaningless because it has no bearing on anything but who’s going to end up on the “Reserves” list.

        and last night was a result of Rum, not caffeine….FYI, lol.

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