AJ Burnett pitched well and lost in the first game of 2013. Wandy Rodriguez pitched well in the second game and won. The most important pitcher in the rotation for the season's first two months is not Burnett, nor is it Rodriguez. It's today's starter, James McDonald. McDonald had a Jeckyll and Hyde 2012 season with an All-Star worthy first half and a brutal second half. He wasn't all that impressive this spring, and his spring ended with a shelling at the hands of a minor league lineup. Spring results are meaningless (remember how bad Tom Gorzelanny was in the spring of 2007 before his breakout year?), but McDonald is hugely important while the Pirates wait on Liriano, Cole, and Karstens. If McDonald pitches well, the Pirates will get good starts more often than not in the early season. If he doesn't, they won't. I really think it might be that simple.
McDonald's opponent is Travis Wood, who is not very good. The first pitch today is at 12:35 because the Pirates have to be in LA tomorrow. Fire up your radios for the first getaway day of 2013!
Huge tip o' the cap to @bwzimmerman for the illustration