Roster Moves: Cumpton, McDonald, Marte

Brandon Cumpton

While you may have been watching college football, the Pirates made some roster moves on this Saturday.

– Brandon Cumpton has been recalled from Indianapolis. The 24-year-old right-hander went from being organizational depth to a very serviceable arm this season. In four starts at the big league level, Cumpton has posted a 2.78 ERA.

– James McDonald was designated for assignment. After quite a few ups-and-downs, there simply isn’t room for J-Mac on the roster anymore. He’s currently healthy so there’s no reason to keep him on the disabled list; Clint Hurdle said they wanted to give him an opportunity to sign with another team. Earlier in the day, we looked at McDonald’s five best and worst moments as a Pirate.

– Starling Marte has been activated from the 15-day disabled list. Good news: he’s back and ready to contribute. Bad news: he can’t hit yet. Marte’s in “pinch-run-only mode” for the time being. Hopefully he’s back at 100% soon.

Updated Pirates Depth Chart

Top 5: Best & Worst of James McDonald

James McDonald Pirates

James McDonald, a once promising arm in the Pirates’ rotation, was designated for assignment on Saturday afternoon. It looks the J-Mac era of Bucco baseball is over. In chronological order, here are his five of his best and worst moments in Pittsburgh…


1. The Debut – 8/5/10

J-Mac was excellent in his first outing as a Pirate: 0 runs, 4 hits, 8 K, 1 BB in 6 innings. The Bucs went on to beat the Rockies, 5-1.

2. The Gatorade Shower – 8/4/11

Through the first four months of the 2011 season, McDonald had failed to last seven innings in a start. Finally, on August 4th (nearly one year after his Pittsburgh debut), he went seven innings against the Cubs. When he returned to the dugout, he treated himself to a Gatorade shower:

J Mac Gatorade Shower

3. Breaking up Matt Cain’s Perfect Game – 4/13/12

The Bucs played one of their worst games of 2012 on Friday the 13th. Matt Cain allowed just one baserunner all day… James McDonald:

J Mac Matt Cain Perfect Game Bid

4. First (and only) Complete Game – 6/21/12

J-Mac sealed a complete game on June 21st against the Minnesota Twins, allowing just one run on six hits. Thanks to his solid performance, he improved to 6-3 with a 2.19 ERA. After the game, I wrote that McDonald deserved to be an All-Star.

5. Last Start of the 2012 First Half – 7/7/12

One of his best starts of last season came on July 7th. He completely dominated the Giants over seven innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out 10. He was “King James” after this one:

King James McDonald

However, it was his last real sign of dominance. His next six outings produced an 8.71 ERA, then J-Mac was never the same…

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1. The End of July – 2012

Four of those six starts fell just after the All-Star break in July. To put it simply, they were awful:

Date Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA Pit
Jul 13 @ MIL L,7-10 4.2 8 5 4 5 2 1 2.59 109
Jul 18 @ COL W,9-6 5.0 9 6 6 4 2 2 2.93 108
Jul 24 CHC L,1-5 6.0 5 5 5 3 6 2 3.15 87
Jul 29 @ HOU L,5-9 5.0 6 5 5 7 5 1 3.38 110

20 earned runs in 20.2 innings. 15 K vs. 19 BB. This marked the beginning of J-Mac’s fall…

2. The Collapse Begins – 8/10/12

This was one of the games that started The Epic Collapse™. The Pirates jumped out to an early 7-1 lead against the San Diego Padres, but J-Mac absolutely tanked in the fifth inning. He let the Friars right back in the game, as they scored six runs to tie the score. McDonald’s night was done (7 runs, 7 hits in 4.1 IP), then the Padres eventually went on to win, 9-8. Just awful.

3. Demoted to the Bullpen – September 2012

His poor pitching continued through August, then he was shelled for eight runs in 2.2 innings against Milwaukee on September 2nd. A few more rough outings led to a demotion to the bullpen. McDonald made just one appearance out of the bullpen; even though it came against the worst team in baseball (Houston), it was ugly: 3 runs, 2 hits, 1 BB without recording an out. His roller coaster season was complete.

4. Bombed by the Red Birds – 4/15/13

McDonald had a chance to prove himself early in the 2013 season, but the Cardinals drilled him on Tax Day. J-Mac lasted just 1.2 innings, giving up eight runs (three earned) on eight hits. After this one, we wrote “What’s up with James McDonald?”

5. The Final Stand – 4/30/13

His last outing as a Pirate came on the final day of April at Miller Park. J-Mac’s brutal performance (7 runs, 8 hits, 5 BB in 5.0 IP) forced him to the disabled list, and we haven’t seen him since…

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Farewell, J-Mac. Hopefully he still knows how to fish.

james mcdonald fishing

Pirates acquire Canzler, transfer McDonald to 60-day DL

On Friday afternoon, the Pirates acquired 1B/OF Russ Canzler from the Baltimore Orioles, in exchange for RHP Tim Alderson.

Canzler, 27, has hit .271 in 29 MLB games. Here are his career minor league statistics:

2004 Cubs Rk 32 105 12 26 2 3 1 13 9 35 .248 .310 .352 .663
2005 Cubs Rk 49 157 22 47 11 3 1 20 24 41 .299 .387 .427 .814
2006 Boise A- 73 280 49 74 22 4 16 61 22 70 .264 .319 .543 .862
2007 Peoria A 125 460 60 124 24 2 7 54 35 88 .270 .321 .376 .697
2008 Daytona A+ 98 326 47 89 22 2 12 59 27 70 .273 .327 .463 .790
2009 Daytona A+ 28 100 14 27 8 1 2 14 7 24 .270 .315 .430 .745
2009 Tennessee AA 90 233 27 60 15 0 6 35 31 41 .258 .346 .399 .745
2010 Tennessee AA 112 355 68 102 28 4 21 66 46 95 .287 .372 .566 .938
2011 Durham AAA 131 474 78 149 40 4 18 83 67 129 .314 .401 .530 .930
2012 Columbus AAA 130 487 68 129 36 3 22 79 46 128 .265 .328 .487 .815
2013 Norfolk AAA 86 323 46 89 15 1 11 49 47 76 .276 .369 .430 .799
10 Seasons 954 3300 491 916 223 27 117 533 361 797 .278 .349 .468 .817
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2013.

The Bucs have given up on Tim Alderson, who was once 45th best prospect in baseball. They acquired him in the trade that sent Freddy Sanchez to the San Francisco Giants in 2009. Now 24 years of age, Alderson is spending his seventh season in the minor leagues. He’s 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA between Altoona and Indianapolis this season.

Canzler was added to the 40-man roster and optioned to Indy. To make room for him on the 40-man, James McDonald has been transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL. We won’t be seeing J-Mac anytime soon.

Should the Pirates part ways with James McDonald?

At this time last year, James McDonald was dominating on the mound, going 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA in the first half of the 2012 campaign. Now, he’s might not even be a part of the Pirates’ future plans.

He was crushed for eight runs on April 15th; the next day, we wondered what was up with J-Mac. His velocity was down, but he claimed he wasn’t injured. However, McDonald was placed on the disabled list on May 7th with “shoulder discomfort” after getting lit up by the Brewers (7 runs, 8 hits, 5 walks in five innings) on April 30th. That could very well be his final appearance as a Pittsburgh Pirate.

David Manel of Bucs Dugout is reporting some comments from general manager Neal Huntington regarding the future of J-Mac. Here’s what NH said:

[quote_simple]”As the clock ticks we’ll have to make the determination as to where James McDonald best fits in this group, on this club. Or, does he fit?”[/quote_simple]

At this point, does J-Mac fit? It sure doesn’t look that way, even though the Pirates are on their 11th starting pitcher of 2013 and could use another arm. Going forward with rookie Brandon Cumpton shows how much confidence the Bucs have in McDonald.

Now, there are rumors that players lost respect for him last August:

Dunlap confirmed that he heard those rumblings directly from a player, rather than just starting speculation.

The club has 10 days to see if they can trade McDonald before his rehab expires. Should they part ways with the 28-year-old right-hander? It seems like there’s a good chance that they will.

UPDATE: In a rehab start on Sunday night, J-Mac allowed four runs on eight hits over five innings. He continued to struggle with his control, throwing 41 balls on 93 pitches and surrendering three walks. When Neal Huntington rhetorically asked if McDonald fit on the Pirates roster, the GM added, “…that’s a question to be answered ultimately by James McDonald and how he goes about it.” J-Mac certainly didn’t show that he’s worthy of a roster spot with this rehab start, and he won’t have many other opportunities to prove it.

Game #32: Pirates 4, Mariners 1

James McDonald was scheduled to start tonight’s ballgame, before being scratched around 5:00 pm. He’s headed to the 15-day disabled list due to right shoulder discomfort. Catcher Russell Martin was also erased from the lineup. His ailment is a stiff neck, and he’s listed as day-to-day.

The Bucs got to Aaron Harang early by plating two runs in the first inning. Starling Marte beat out an infield hit, and back-to-back doubles by Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen brought home the runs.

Jeanmar Gomez stepped in for J-Mac, and made the most of his opportunity. He allowed no runs on two hits, while striking out five batters in five innings. Clint Hurdle pulled him after just 66 pitches, but the bullpen got the job done as usual. Justin Wilson looked sharp in a scoreless frame, Tony Watson (charged with a run) and Jose Contreras worked the seventh, and Mark Melancon was tremendous again in the eighth.

Garrett Jones gave the Pirates some insurance in the home half of the eighth with a two-run blast, then Jason Grilli sealed 4-1 victory in the ninth.

The top of the lineup carried the club once again tonight. Andrew McCutchen was 4-for-4, and Marte, Snider, and Jones tacked on one hit apiece. The bottom half of the order was an awful 0-for-16. Pedro Alvarez seriously struggled, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Thankfully, the pitching was superb and picked up another victory.

Good to see the Bucs at least split this two-game series. Tomorrow’s matchup should be a good one: Felix Hernandez vs. A.J. Burnett. First pitch at 12:35.

Pirates (18-14) – Mariners (15-19)

Win: Gomez (2-0)
Loss: Harang (1-4)
Save: Grilli (13)



Go Bucs