It was looking more and more like the Pirates would shift James McDonald from the rotation to the bullpen once he returned from the disabled list, but now it might be a moot point.
McDonald continues to experience shoulder soreness and Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that the right-hander will be examined by Dr. James Andrews next week. In other words: Uh oh.
McDonald had an excellent first half for the Pirates last season, but faded badly down the stretch and then posted a 5.76 ERA in six starts before being shut down this year. Pittsburgh has enough rotation depth that sending Gerrit Cole back to the minors is being talked about, so at this point McDonald is sort of a forgotten man.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.