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Pirates Pregame: McDonald Still Searching for Consistency

James McDonald makes his third start of the 2013 season tonight with the St. Louis Cardinals visiting PNC Park, and one has to wonder which McDonald will be on the mound tonight for the Pirates.

Photo Credit: David Hague

James McDonald will make his third start of the season tonight. Photo Credit: David Hague

Will it be the James McDonald that was perhaps the best pitcher on the Pittsburgh staff during the first half of 2012? Or will it be the James McDonald that went through a full-on meltdown in the second half of 2012? So far in 2013 McDonald has been decent but nowhere close to his form from this time last season.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said McDonald has had one bad inning out of the 12 he has appeared in this season and finding that consistency will be key for him going forward.

“We know James is still working through some consistency challenges and dependability challenges,” Hurdle said. “He understands it. He gets it. Nobody wants to be more dependable that he does. How does he find it when it starts to get away from him? What does he do to reset? That’s where we’ve spent a lot of our attention.”

**

As we reported earlier today, Alex Presley has been recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. Hurdle said Presley was brought up to give the team another outfielder as opposed to another infielder because of the match-ups the Pirates have coming in the next few series.

“What we did was we looked at the schedule — all right-handed pitchers with the exception of (Paul) Maholm who’s not a traditional left on left. How we want to set our bench, how we want to set our in-game decisions. We felt we were stronger with another left-handed bat, speed guy. Lead-off an inning, come out late, maybe spot Marte for a day if we need it. We did talk about a couple other guys but at the end of the day we liked adding Presley.”

Hurdle added that the team still has a “trick card” it has yet to play this season.

“Russell Martin can go to third base and play tonight if we need him,” he said. “He’s played in the big leagues at third base. I watched him play a handful of games and we’ve talked about this. We didn’t want to have him out there because as soon as he went to short that got a lot of press. He’s backing off taking balls in the infield, but third base — he knows that he’s capable and we know that he’s capable if I need an in-game adjustment there I can go with him there and (Michael) McKenry behind the plate.”

**

Lineups:

St. Louis: (7-5, 1st National League Central)
1. Jay cf
2. Carpenter 2b
3. Holliday lf
4. Craig 1b
5. Beltran rf
6. Molina c
7. Freese 3b
8. Kozma ss
9. Lynn p

Pittsburgh: (6-6, 2nd National League Central)
1. Marte lf
2. Snider rf
3. McCutchen cf
4. Jones 1b
5. Walker 2b
6. Alvarez 3b
7. Martin c
8. Barmes ss
9. McDonald p

As usual, you can follow along with me on Twitter (@TomBraggSports) for in-game updates from PNC Park.

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Tom Bragg

Tom Bragg is a beat writer and analyst for PiratesProspects.com. He is the former sports editor of the (Fairmont) Times West Virginian and has worked at the Charleston Gazette, Charleston Daily Mail and the (Ashland, Ky.) Independent. His freelance work has appeared in newspapers all over West Virginia and he has written for The Associated Press with stories posted to several major media outlets (ESPN.com, SportsIllustrated.com, FoxSports.com). Tom graduated from Marshall University in May 2010 with a degree in Print Journalism. Follow Tom on Twitter: @TomBraggSports

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