TAMPA, Fla. -- James McDonald made a successful return to the mound, pitching three innings in a Triple-A game against the Yankees on Saturday.
McDonald, who hadn't pitched since March 11 because of left side soreness, threw 44 pitches (28 strikes) in the outing. He allowed one earned run on four hits and struck out three. More important than the results, though, was McDonald's ability to resume the process of building up his arm and his declaration that there were no lingering injury issues.
"I still need to build a little more stamina," McDonald said. "It's not fair for me to go three innings and leave the bullpen hanging."
The Pirates are still hopeful that, after one more outing, McDonald will be able to begin the season in the big league rotation. Right now he is penciled in to make his season debut against the Cardinals on April 5.
In order to get ready for that start, McDonald will remain in Florida next week so that he can pitch in a Minor League or simulated game on Thursday. He'll try to extend himself out to five innings (about 80 pitches) in that effort.