Pirates remove James McDonald from the rotation

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Not so long ago James McDonald was the Pirates’ ace, taking a 9-3 record, 2.37 ERA, and 100/31 K/BB ratio in 17 starts into the All-Star break.

Since then he’s got a 7.08 ERA in 12 starts, posting an ugly 51/37 K/BB ratio in 61 innings while serving up 13 homers. And today the Pirates announced that McDonald has been removed from the rotation and replaced by rookie Kyle McPherson, who has never started a big-league game.

The last straw apparently came Friday, when McDonald failed to make it out of the fourth inning against the Cubs while allowing four runs on five hits and four walks. He had a decent outing on September 8, but also lasted just 2.2 innings against the Brewers on September 2.

McPherson has been pitching in relief since being called up on August 20, but was a full-time starter in the minors with decent strikeout numbers and excellent control. He’ll pitch Wednesday night versus the Brewers, with McDonald working out of the bullpen.

And the Pirates must win at least eight of their remaining 18 games to avoid their 20th straight losing season.

Colby Rasmus signs a minor league deal with the Orioles

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Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that Colby Rasmus has agreed to a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles.

Rasmus, 31, played only 37 games with the Rays last year. The reason: the previous offseason he underwent surgery to repair his left hip labrum and his core muscle, and the hip continued to bother him throughout spring training. He began the season on the disabled list and made his debut on May 2, hitting .281/.318/.579 in 129 plate appearances before going back on the DL June 23. He’d never return, “stepping away” from the game in the words of the club, which placed him on the restricted list for the remainder of the season.