The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 18, 2013

McDonald overcomes shaky first for Bucs

BRADENTON, Fla. — James McDonald was not rattled by his rough start.

McDonald labored in the first inning, then recovered as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 Monday.

“I got locked back in, kept my composure and finished strong,” McDonald said. “I didn’t let the game get away from me. I felt confident – every pitch, every moment out there.”

Ryan Lavarnway hit a two-run single in the first. McDonald then retired 11 of 14 batters. He gave up four hits and three walks in five innings and struck out six.

This was the second game in a row that McDonald overcame a rocky first inning.

“It’s definitely correctable,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s got some weapons. With James, it’s about rhythm, pace and timing. That improved as the game went on. We’ve got to keep him working and take the cerebral part out of it.”

McDonald has a 4.19 ERA in five games with 4 strikeouts in 19 1⁄3 innings.

Neil Walker homered to end Clay Buchholz’s 9 1⁄3 inning scoreless streak and Gaby Sanchez hit a two-run drive.

Walker’s leadoff homer in the second was the only hit off Buchholz, who struck out four and walked two in five innings.

Sanchez homered in the seventh against Chris Carpenter, and Michael McKenry hit a solo drive off Oscar Villarreal in the eighth.

“He’s gone through a pretty drastic transformation from the way he pitched in the minors and in his rookie year to now,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “The last couple outings, when he puts the ball on the ground, he’s at his best. That’s when he’s most relaxed.”

After recovering from stress fracture in his back in 2011, Buchholz began last season by going 4-2 with a 7.19 ERA in his first 10 starts. He was 7-6 with a 3.45 ERA the rest of the way.

After watching video of Buchholz’s early outings, Farrell said he saw a lot of pitches up in the zone.

“Maybe he was subconsciously protecting (his back) or just couldn’t get full extension to drive the ball downhill,” Farrell said. “But after his seventh or eighth start, he ran off good numbers, like he was his old self. That’s what we’re seeing now.”

Notes: Red Sox DH David Ortiz’s scheduled batting practice was canceled due to continued pain in both heels. “He’s not ready for that next phase,” Farrell said. ... The start of the game was delayed by 48 minutes, but it didn’t start raining until after the tarp was removed and play got under way. ... The Pirates reassigned RHPs Gerrit Cole, Brooks Brown, Kyle Waldrop, LHP Kris Johnson and C Ali Solis to their minor league camp. RHP Phil Irwin was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Cole, the first overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft, is the team’s top prospect. ... Closer Jason Grilli pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning in his first appearance for the Pirates since pitching for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. ... If SS Stephen Drew continues to be bothered by post-concussion symptoms through Tuesday, the Red Sox would send him to be examined by Dr. Michael Collins, a specialist in Pittsburgh. “When he goes through exertion tests there’s no increase in the symptoms, so we take that as a positive,” Farrell said. ... Red Sox LHP Franklin Morales (bulging disk) threw from 60 feet on Monday. “If we can repeat that a couple of days, we’ll have more insight on what plan to follow,” Farrell said.

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