James McDonald is growing into the Pirates’ ace at age 27

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James McDonald pitched well for the Pirates in the one-and-a-half seasons after they acquired him from the Dodgers for Octavio Dotel in mid-2010, but so far this season he’s taken a major step forward at age 27 to emerge as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter.

McDonald threw 244 innings with a 4.15 ERA in 2010 and 2011, but after shutting out the Reds for eight innings Monday he now has a 2.20 ERA through 10 starts this year. And just as importantly his secondary numbers show a significant improvement that goes beyond ERA.

McDonald averaged 7.1 strikeouts and 4.0 walks per nine innings in 2010/2011, but this year he has 8.7 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings. He’s always had good raw stuff, but McDonald is throwing his straight fastball less and relying on his sinker/slider combination a lot more, resulting in 22 percent more missed bats and 10 percent more ground balls along with 35 percent fewer walks and a much better job keeping the ball in the ballpark.

Obviously 10 starts are just 10 starts, but McDonald’s performance looks much more like legitimate improvement than some sort of early season fluke and that would be a huge development in the Pirates’ never-ending quest for a winning record.

Padres sign Clayton Richard to a contract extension

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The Padres announced on Wednesday that the club signed pitcher Clayton Richard to a contract extension through the 2019 season. It’s a two-year, $6 million deal, per MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell.

Executive VP and GM A.J. Preller said, “Clayton has been a steadying presence in our rotation, both on and off the field. He has provided veteran leadership for our young ball club, and his tireless work ethic sets the standard among his peers. We’re extremely excited to have him in a Padres uniform for two more years.”

Richard, 34, is tied for the league lead in losses at 14. Along with that, he has a 4.82 ERA with a 136/55 K/BB ratio in 185 innings. The lefty earned $1.75 million in 2017 and was eligible to become a free agent after the season.

Report: Raul Mondesi sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption as mayor of San Cristobal

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Former major league outfielder Raul Mondesi has been sentenced to eight years in prison and fined 60 million pesos for corruption as mayor of San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic, Hector Gomez reports. Mondesi served a six-year term as mayor from 2010-16. He initially ran on the ballot of the Dominican Liberation Party, but switched to the Dominican Revolutionary Party over a year later.

Mondesi, 46, played parts of 13 seasons in the majors for the Dodgers, Blue Jays, Yankees, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Angels, and Braves. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1994 with the Dodgers, made one All-Star team, and won two Gold Glove Awards. He is the father of the Royals infielder of the same name.