When the Pittsburgh Pirates take the field Tuesday night against the Seattle Mariners, there will be the familiar site of James McDonald on the mound.
But will this be one of the last times that Pirates fans see J-Mac starting a game?
With Francisco Liriano set to make his Pirates debut this weekend and Charlie Morton likely not far behind him, someone is going to have to go.
Liriano will be taking the spot of Jeanmar Gomez, but with Morton throwing a bullpen season this weekend in New York, a spot in the rotation must be created when he returns from Tommy John surgery.
That news means McDonald is running out of time to make his case.
J-Mac hasn’t been great this season, going 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA, which includes two very good starts against the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves in which he tossed a combined 13 innings, allowing only four hits and two runs total.
It’s been everything in between that has been the problem, but consistency has always been as issue for J-Mac.
His last start against the Milwaukee Brewers in which he allowed seven earned runs, eight hits and five walks should be a sign that McDonald is pitching for his job.
He’s walked 20 batters and has struck out only 25 in 29.2 innings through six starts, which is a big problem as J-Mac’s strikeout pitch is his best weapon. The league is hitting .252 against him when he does get the ball over the plate and his 1.61 WHIP is a bit eye-popping.
It’s hard to make a case for McDonald to remain in the rotation over Jeff Locke, who would be the only other candidate.
Locke is 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA, but it doesn’t stop there as his numbers are better across the board. The league is hitting .222 against Locke and his 1.25 WHIP is much more respectable. He also has walked only 16 batters in 33.2 innings pitched.
But if you ignore all of that, Locke has given the Pirates a chance to win almost every time he takes the ball.
The same can’t be said for McDonald. A choice is going to have to be made very soon and judging by performance, McDonald should be the odd man out.
He’s down to one or two more opportunities to make his case.