Apr 25, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher James McDonald (53) delivers to the plate during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
If there has ever been a baseball player who was Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, it is James McDonald. In both 2011 and 2012, McDonald pitched in ways that showed he had potential to be brilliant, and at other times he looked like a guy who could surrender fifteen runs on any given night. He’s been on the DL for the last month or so, but on June 25th, the Pirates have to make a decision to either re-activate, trade, DFA, or cut James McDonald.
The Pirates are playing great baseball, they’re sixteen games over .500, and they are loaded with pitching right now. As a team trying to break what has been one of the most horrific streaks of ineptitude in the history of sports, they need to make absolutely certain to put the best twenty-five players on the roster right now, and there simply isn’t any room for a guy who has posted an ERA of 4.21 last year, and 5.76 this year.
He hasn’t been sharp in his rehab starts either, where he has an ERA of 6.39 between Double-A Altoona, and Triple-A Indianapolis, with fourteen strikeouts and fourteen walks.
Whether McDonald’s problems are mental or physical, this much is clear: McDonald is not an effective pitcher anymore, he won’t be an effective pitcher again anytime soon, and the Pirates have a shortage of roster and rotation spots. McDonald once showed potential to be a longtime fixture on the staff, with good mid-90s heat, a great curveball, and a delivery that was effective in fooling hitters. Not so much anymore. Now he struggles to find the strike zone, and when he does, he gets pounded.
The Pirates have already had to deal with the nightmare that was Jonathan Sanchez this year, and trying an experiment like that is a bad idea for a team having to compete with quality clubs like St. Louis and Cincinnati. The Pirates have the best chance they’ve had in a long time to not only have a winning team, but to make the playoffs. Bringing James McDonald back onto the roster as a reliever or a starter would hurt those chances. The Pirates need to field the best team that they can, and McDonald does not fit that mold.