Clint Hurdle told reporters last night that the Pirates will “more than likely” return to a five-man rotation next week after the Pirates have an off-day and more or less implied that it’s possible that James McDonald will end up in the bullpen with Kevin Correia staying in the rotation. I’d imagine that’s more up in the air now after Correia’s start last night was less-than-sparkling and McDonald has another outing before that off-day comes up, but given McDonald’s struggles it’s obviously something the club has to consider.
What I’ll say is this: I wouldn’t be upset with McDonald going to the bullpen if I thought fatigue was causing his problems, but I’m not at all convinced that fatigue is what is causing his problems. I’m working on a post about this right now, but the reality is that he’s been inconsistent even since before his complete game in late June (obviously it’s a much worse problem now than it was in June) and I think that there’s an underlying problem to his struggles that isn’t just general fatigue, though I haven’t been able to pin it down yet.
What would concern me about moving McDonald to the ‘pen and keeping Correia in the rotation is that it seems to me like this might be something that occurs to the coaching staff as a way to kill two birds with one stone — it pares the rotation back to five guys without worrying about McDonald every outing AND it puts McDonald and his good stuff in the ‘pen to curb the bullpen meltdowns — while the real danger is the tiger lurking behind them. I’ve been saying repeatedly that I think the Pirates have potential cures to their bullpen problems already in the system, though they seem reluctant to try them. The downgrade from McDonald (when he’s effective) to Correia is steep.
I’m not saying the Pirates aren’t exploring all of their possible options with helping McDonald because I’m sure they are. I’m just saying that if they’re going to move him to the bullpen, they’d better be completely sure that fatigue is his problem. Otherwise, this sort of move would have a huge potential to backfire.