McDonald Getting Feel for Changeup, New Turn in Delivery in Loss to Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Right-hander James McDonald looked sharp in his second outing of the spring against the Philadelphia Phillies tough lineup. His only run allowed over his three inning outing came in the 2nd frame. McDonald gave up a leadoff single to Hunter Pence, who scored on a RBI double into deep center by Ty Wigginton. The reasons for his success is from getting the feel of his changeup and a new turn in his delivery.

“We’re very encouraged my a number of things, that being one of them,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said of McDonald’s changeup this spring. “He’s also incorporated a little turn in his delivery. That’s going to give his arm better opportunity to work. It will repeat his release point. He was a little methodical today just putting it into play and just trusting it.”

Hurdle said he was encouraged by the results with the new turn in his delivery. McDonald and pitching coach Ray Searage have been working on it this spring.

“He’s got a little bit of a turn to it, swing to it where he can get that arm out and finish the extension,” Hurdle said. “One of the challenges he had last year was the inconsistency of command early. We think that’s going to give him a better opportunity to be more efficient with all his pitches.”

Overall, McDonald allowed one run on two hits over three innings with a strikeout in his second spring outing.

“I’m just really trying to focus on throwing strikes,” McDonald said. “I’m kind of just trying to get the feel of my changeup. Just throw it, throw it, throw it, because there is no way better to get the feel for it than to just throw it. I’m trying to get the feel of my changeup so it can feed off my fastball.”

“It’s getting better. I’m just trying to feel a little it. Better rhythm. My release point is starting to come around. I can feel when I have a bad one, so I know when I need to make that adjustment.”

McDonald said his changeup has changed over the years. When he was younger it started to change after he started getting more arm strength. McDonald, who uses a four-seam grip so it looks like a fastball coming out of his hand, said now the pitch has a little bit more fade action to it.

“Last year throughout most of the year, I really didn’t have my good changeup,” McDonald said. “There were flashes of it here and there. I told myself I wanted to work on my changeup and be able to throw it whenever, and throw it to whoever I want –righties, lefties, it doesn’t matter. It was a pitch that was real big for me coming up through the minors.”

“If you throw the changeup off that fastball, it doesn’t have to necessarily be a strike. If it starts out in that vicinity of looking like a strike, you’re going to get swings and roll overs. It’s a big pitch to get you out of a lot of jams. I really, really would like to get that pitch going.”

“It’s a feel pitch. It’s a pitch you have to feel for. If you haven’t thrown it for a long time and you start throwing it again, it’s not sharp right away. You got to throw it, throw it. And sometimes one day you just feel it like, ‘There it is.’”

After an impressive spring debut on Tuesday, lefty Justin Wilson struggled with his command against the Phillies lineup. After giving up a one-out base knock to veteran Jim Thome, Wilson walked three batters in a row for an earned run over his 0.2 innings of relief.

For the second straight inning, the Bucs saw another young arm struggle out of the ‘pen in the 4th. Righty Jared Hughes gave up two runs in his outing from a two-run homer to right field to All-Star Shane Victorino.

Trailing by four heading into the 6th, the Pirates rallied off reliever Dave Bush, plating three runs in the frame. Josh Harrison hit a leadoff swiped second and scored on a RBI single by third baseman Casey McGehee. Matt Hague picked up his fourth RBI this spring by grounding out to short to score McGehee. The third run scored after Gorkys Hernandez hit a sac fly.

The Pirates tied the game at 4 in the 8th inning after outfielder Starling Marte connected for a solo-homer off reliever David Purcey. It marked Marte’s second homer in as many games. It also extended his streak to eight straight hits.

“We’re very happy with what he’s done,” Hurdle said. “It’s exciting to watch him play. I’m very happy with seeing him come in with a comfort zone that he has –especially at the plate and on the bases. I’ve never seen him play. So for us to get the experience to work with him, watch him work the drills, BP, being around him, talking with him. Then watch him manage the at-bats the way he has, you see what everybody has been talking bout throughout our player development system. I’ve gotten a lot of other raves out of winter ball from other organizations…He’s working in the right direction. There’s no doubt it. He’s got every opportunity to be a very exciting ballplayer.”

“He’s taking what the pitchers giving him. He hasn’t gotten outside of himself. I don’t have problems with reckless swings from time to time but we haven’t even seen too much of that. He’s just managed his at-bats very, very well. Very much in control with what’s going on up there offensively.”

Neither the Pirates or Phillies were able to plate a run in the 9th inning to break the tie.  Due to extra arms in the ‘pens, the Pirates and Phillies agreed to pitch one more inning. Right-hander Michael Dubee, son of Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, gave up a leadoff homer to left in his first at-bat for the 5-4 loss.


Game Notes:

  • Relief: Justin Wilson: 0.2 IP, H, R, 3BB; Brian Tallet (minors): 0.1 IP; Jared Hughes IP, 3H, 2R, BB, HR; Daniel Moskos 2IP, BB, K; Bryan Morris: IP, H; Mike Crotta IP, H; Michael Dubee (minors): 0.0, H, R, HR
  • Matt Hague made a great defensive play at first base in the first inning when Shane Victorino hit a bouncer up the right side. Hague made a diving snag to his right, then ran to the base for the out.
  • Casey McGehee went 1-for-3 with a run and a RBI; Starling Marte went 1-for-2, with a solo home run. His streak of eight straight hits ended in the 10th inning when he flew out to right. Rod Barajas went 2-for-3 with a double.


Friday Game Info:

  • The Pirates will play the Red Sox under the lights in Fort Myer tomorrow at 7:05 PM. Shairon Martis will start for the Bucs against Clay Buchholz. Tony Watson, Daniel McCutchen, Chris Resop, Doug Slaten, Ryota Igarashi and Tim Wood will follow in relief.
  • Traveling to Fort Myers on Friday:

Catchers: Ramon Cabrera, Tony Sanchez, Eric Fryer

Infielders: Garrett Jones, Clint Barmes, Chase d’Arnaud, Pedro Alvarez, Yamaico Navarro, Anderson Hernandez, Jordy Mercer, Jake Fox, Nick Evans

Outfielders: Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Brandon Boggs, Gorkys Hernandez, Robbie Grossman