Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle announced on Sunday that James McDonald has been removed from the rotation, and rookie Kyle McPherson will replace him in the five-man staff, getting his first Major League start on Wednesday in Pittsburgh against Milwaukee.
As the season continues to wind down, and each game continues to get more important as the Pirates are just two games out of the second spot in the Wild Card, the club had to do what was best for the team to win games. Hurdle decided that right now, they were better served with McPherson getting those starts.
Hurdle told Rob Biertempfel of the Trib that fatigue was not a factor as to why McDonald has struggled in the second half of the season, that it’s been the execution that has been the challenge. McDonald posted an impressive 2.37 ERA in the first half, but has since ballooned to 4.05 on the season due to the second half struggles. McDonald walked more batters — 37 — since the All-Star break than he had in the entire first part of the season — 31 over 110.0 innings.
McPherson has been impressive in his short look in relief since being recalled from Triple-A. The right-hander has allowed two runs on nine hits over 11.2 frames (1.54 ERA) with Pittsburgh. He’s walked just two batters while striking out 11. McPherson posted a combined 3.22 ERA over 12 starts with Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis this season. The rookie started the season on the disabled list due to right shoulder fatigue, but was impressive at the Triple-A level. Over three starts, McPherson posted an 0.98 ERA over 18.1 innings with 17 strikeouts. McPherson was the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011 after sporting a 2.96 ERA over 28 starts combined at High-A Bradenton and Altoona.
The Pirates will not move forward with a six-man rotation. Hurdle told Biertempfel that they want to see Jeff Karstens (hip flexor) in relief from the bullpen first before considering moving him back into starting.