The Pirates could send James McDonald to the bullpen

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After James McDonald was knocked around for seven runs over 4 2/3 innings against the Padres last Friday, I speculated that the Pirates could move him to the bullpen while giving Kevin Correia another extended look in the starting rotation. It appears that is exactly what is being considered right now.

According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that the club will “more than likely” return to a five-man rotation next week after they return from a six-game road trip to St. Louis and San Diego. Correia was demoted to the bullpen following the acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez last month, but the Pirates recently instituted a six-man rotation while playing 20 games in the span of 20 days.

Hurdle said “there is conversation going on” about who will go to the bullpen, but with Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett, Jeff Karstens and Erik Bedard pretty solid locks to remain in the rotation, the fifth spot is expected to come down to either Correia or McDonald.

McDonald posted a fantastic 2.37 ERA and 100/31 K/BB ratio over 17 starts during the first half, but his hold on a rotation spot is suddenly tenuous thanks to an ugly 8.71 ERA and 26/21 K/BB ratio over 31 innings in six starts since the All-Star break. With the Pirates in the thick of the playoff race, they can’t afford to wait much longer for him to turn it around. He’ll have one more chance to make a favorable impression this Friday against the Cardinals.

Padres release Phil Hughes

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The Padres have released right-hander Phil Hughes. He was recently designated for assignment.

Hughes was traded from the Twins to the Padres at the end of May in a deal that was, essentially, the Padres acquiring a Competitive Balance pick and agreeing to pick up half of Hughes outstanding salary, which is $13.2 million in 2019. The Padres used him for 16 relief appearances but he was terrible, posting a 6.10 ERA.

The 32-year-old is a 12-year veteran. Given that he’ll basically be free to anyone who wants him, it’s not unreasonable to think he’ll get a non-roster invite to someone’s spring training next year, but it could very well be the end for him as well.