CLEARWATER, Fla. -- James McDonald went in search of his good changeup Thursday, and he had a good feeling about it. "It's a feel pitch. There is no better way to get a feel for the changeup than by continuing to throw it," McDonald said after pitching the first three innings of the Pirates' 5-4 loss to the Phillies in 10 innings. McDonald allowed two hits to start the second -- a single by Hunter Pence and a Ty Wigginton double to score him -- but he otherwise silenced the Phillies while throwing more changeups than he would normally.
"I'd really, really like to get back to when it was a key pitch for me coming through the Minors," McDonald said. "Throwing it off the fastball can be very effective. The thing that makes the changeup effective is, it doesn't have to be a strike. As long as it starts out on the same plane, it works for you." McDonald's misplacement of his A-change is a common complaint of young pitchers as they reach big league maturity. "As you get more arm strength," he said, "your change changes. It isn't as sharp. You have to keep throwing it to get back the feeling." McDonald's arm responded positively to being stretched out to three innings for the first time. The third was his smoothest frame, as he retired the side on three consecutive grounders. "I had better rhythm. If my release point started feeling bad, I could make an immediate adjustment," McDonald said.