James McDonald will not be making his scheduled start against the Mariners tonight and will instead be headed to the disabled list with what's being described as shoulder stiffness. Jeanmar Gomez will start in his place tonight. Last week, I would've told you that this made the impending Francisco Liriano (who should be back on Saturday ) and Charlie Morton decisions easy, but Morton apparently had a minor setback last week. He should still be back relatively soon, but for now it probably means more Jeanmar Gomez.
There's quite a bit of discussion online today whether or not McDonald is hurt or whether he's "hurt." David Todd makes the case that the Pirates are putting him on the shelf to sort out his bad mechanics. David's not wrong about McDonald's mechanics (check out this Baseball Prospectus piece, via @MichaelVelaTTU), but I think that there are a whole host of signs here that point to a real injury. His declining velocity is certainly one, even if it's ticked back up recently. The way that his slider use has declined this year worries me a lot, too, since it could be indicative of some kind of arm discomfort. The inconsistency with his velocity (he's been going up and down a bit since his mid-season collapse last year) and the changes in pitch selection and the lack of command and even the bad mechanics all say to me that there's something wrong with his arm. I would like very much to be wrong here, but I don't have a good feeling about this.
In any case, Josh Harrison's up for now in McDonald's spot because the Pirates need a position player. Jose Tabata has some kind of lingering something and since Russell Martin's been scratched tonight with a stiff neck. The good news is that Travis Snider is in the starting lineup and batting second tonight and that Aaron Harang is starting for the Mariners tonight and not completely out of baseball, as I would've guessed three minutes ago before I looked up the Mariners' starter. Harang has already served up six home runs in 18 2/3 innings this year, which is a huge part of the reason that he's allowed 18 runs in those four starts.
The first pitch tonight is at 7:05. The brutal early season schedule has passed and the Pirates are 17-14. Jeanmar Gomez or no, the schedule gets easier here and it's time to take advantage of that.