CHICAGO -- Clint Hurdle didn't give a definitive answer on Saturday when asked where James McDonald fits in the Pirates' pitching staff following another subpar second-half outing by the right-hander.
But the Pirates' manager did leave open the possibility of McDonald's spot in the rotation being in jeopardy.
"Sometimes, I do think you have to look at the option of taking something away from somebody. That's always an option," Hurdle said. "But is it at the top of the list? I wouldn't say that.
"You're looking to find a key to unlock something -- and that's the challenge you have with young players, is sometimes it takes different keys. Not one key works with everybody. We're trying to find the keys to unlock him, and we're running out of time."
McDonald, 27, allowed four runs and walked four in 3 2/3 innings in a 7-4 loss to the Cubs on Friday, as his second-half ERA climbed to 7.08 in 12 starts. The right-hander went 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA during the first half, and admitted afterward his confidence has taken a hit.
"When I was 2-0 in the first half, it didn't matter to me. I knew I had confidence and the next pitch I threw was going to be a good pitch, regardless if [the batter] hit [the ball] or not," McDonald said. "Now, at times, things are going through my head like, 'Oh, I have to do this, I have to do that.' In the first half, I didn't think about, 'I have to.' I just thought, 'I am going to,' or, 'There's the glove, I'm going to throw it there.'"
Hurdle said he wasn't alarmed at McDonald's comments, and spoke with the right-hander after the game.
"I think there's a point in time when an honest self-evaluation is critical, and I don't hold that against a player if he will honestly self-evaluate and say something that, you know what, might be out of the norm," Hurdle said. "For him to say what he said, he's talked to me and we're kind of on the same page with some of the thoughts we've identified. I do believe that could [actually be] some help in the right direction."