Pittsburgh Pirates: The end of the James McDonald experiment

James McDonald (Courtesy of CBS Sports)

James McDonald (Courtesy of CBS Sports)

The Pittsburgh Pirates have activated James McDonald from the 60-day disabled list and designated him for assignment on Saturday.

The Dodgers  selected McDonald in the eleventh round of the 2002 draft, and he ascended through the team’s minor league system and made his major league debut in 2008. He was used primarily as a reliever throughout the next three seasons in Los Angeles, and was shipped to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline in 2010 for Octavio Dotel.

McDonald was having a spectacular season 14 months ago, and he was even mentioned as a top of the rotation pitcher. He had a great curveball and was throwing in the mid 90’s.  After the 2012 All-Star break, everything crumbled for the right-hander.

The Pirates had hoped McDonald could bounce back during the start of the 2013 season, but he was unable to return to his once-dominating form.

Now, McDonald struggles to find the strike zone, and he gets pounded when he does. Whether McDonald’s problems are mental or physical,  he is not an effective pitcher anymore and won’t be one again anytime soon.

Before going on the DL with shoulder discomfort, McDonald had gone 2-2 in six starts, allowing 19 earned runs in 29 2/3 innings. Since then he has made 11 rehab appearances, spread over two different stints.

During both rehab assignments, McDonald has not pitched well. He had a 6.55 ERA in 33 innings with 15 walks. He last pitched Thursday night in Indianapolis’ playoff game, throwing two no-hit innings, but he did walk two batters and half of his 26 pitches were balls.

“We’ve had a lot of transparent conversations, tried to figure it out, but, at the end of the day, sometimes things just don’t work out, and it didn’t come back together for James,” said manager Clint Hurdle. “The move was made now to give him an opportunity to catch on with another team while the Major League season was still on.”

McDonald will probably be looking at an offseason where his best chance will be a non-roster invite to spring training with some other major league team.

For the present time, it appears to be the end of the road for McDonald and the Pirates.