McDonald struggles to get ahead in loss

McDonald struggles to get ahead in loss

McDonald struggles to get ahead in loss
BRADENTON, Fla. -- There was good and bad -- and most importantly, lessons learned -- in James McDonald's start against the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon.

An inability to throw first-pitch strikes hurt McDonald early in the Pirates' eventual 5-0 loss to Toronto. McDonald fell behind consistently in the first inning, which saw four Blue Jays hitters reach base and two score.

"I've got to focus on getting strike one," said McDonald, who had thrown two scoreless innings his first time out. "Early innings, just I got a little out of whack."

Encouraging, though, was how McDonald bounced back from the shaky beginning. He retired the side in order in the second and would have worked around a one-out double in the third had Corey Wimberly made a clean throw to first on the ground ball he fielded.

The error lengthened the inning and forced manager Clint Hurdle to pull McDonald after 2 2/3 innings due to his pitch count. In all, McDonald allowed four hits, four runs (two earned) and one walk. He struck out two.

"The rhythm wasn't what we really wanted," Hurdle said. "He demands a lot out of himself and expects a lot of himself. It could have gotten a lot uglier if he hadn't made the pitches when he did."

Again, results are quite arbitrary at this point in spring, and McDonald hardly seemed concerned about being knocked around. His arm strength is where he wants it to be four weeks from Opening Day, and McDonald's velocity is picking up as well.

"I was pleased with some of the pitches I threw," McDonald said. "Some of the results to me were good. It might not look that good out there because they hit it in play. But it was the pitch I wanted and I executed it. Things are going fine."