James McDonald has made just one appearance out of the bullpen after he was replaced in the rotation with Kyle McPherson on Sept 16, two days after his final start of the season against the Chicago Cubs. The move was not only to for the organization to get a look at the rookie McPherson, but to give McDonald a chance to get back on track after a rough second half of the season.
McDonald didn’t retire a batter in his first relief appearance as a member of the Pirates, allowing three runs on two hits and a walk. Stepping away from the game, Manager Clint Hurdle believes, has helped him.
“I think at this particular point
in time, yes,” Hurdle said. “We had him try and do a couple of things down there. Now, we’ve just slowed everything down. There are probably times when guys will once the season ends, and the closure of the season comes, there can actually be an, okay, now the clock can reset to actually get everything in place for .”
“There’s been times where, you know, I’m not really ready for the next season until this ones over. There still could be some things that you’re mentally engaging in. You’re still watching teammates play, you’re actively engaged in the games. There’s always a buy in until the end of the season. And when the end of the season can come, I think then there can be that other part of the cleansing or the closure process.”
Fatigue was not a factor as to why McDonald had struggled in the second half of the season. For McDonald, it boiled down to execution and a lack of confidence. McDonald posted an impressive 2.37 ERA in the first half, but has since has ballooned his ERA to 4.21 on the season due to the second half struggles. The right-hander has sported a 7.52 ERA since the All-Star break.
Hurdle believes there are a couple of options for McDonald to work on after recently having his exit interview. A big key could be journaling, something that Hurdle, too takes part in.
“Sometimes guys journal,” Hurdle said. “What were you feeling in the first half? What was your thought process? What was your checklist? And then, what was your checklist in the second half? What were you feeling? What were your goals the first half? What were your goals the second half? Watch the video tape and just write down anything that comes to mind, anything different. How was your rhythm? How was your tempo? How was the delivery time, as far as getting pitches off in certain sequences? How’d you look? Did you look the same?”
“We’ve got guys that are in our organization, mental skills coaching, performance coaching. Bernie Holiday is a great outlet. He’s a guy I talk to every two weeks just to share information with. Sometimes you go outside the organization and just spend some time [with] a mentor. Maybe an old buddy, another pitcher. There’s different ways to do it. But No. 1, there’s got to be conversation about it. There’s got to be, I do think, a cleansing. I think he started that process now.”