James McDonald Heads to the Bullpen

Via Tony Jackson’s Twitter:

Joe says J-Mac no longer a candidate for fifth spot. Vying for a bullpen slot now

This jives pretty well with what I thought yesterday when discussing the fifth starters:

James McDonald. Just like last year, I think we’d all come into camp hoping that McDonald would come away with the job. Who wouldn’t want to see the two-time team Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the rotation rather than the usual crew of retreads and has-beens? Despite McDonald’s failure in the role last year, he did turn his season around with an impressive run out of the pen, leading many (okay, me) to hope that he’d found his groove. Yet he’s been awful so far this spring (6 runs and 8 hits in 4 innings, with just 1 K and 3 walks), and with the extra room in the bullpen thanks to Belisario’s disappearance, he may be needed there. Odds: 10%

Considering how little the fifth starter gets used early in the season, and the extreme likelihood that the “fifth starter” will likely be four or five guys throughout the year, this isn’t terrible news. McDonald was excellent as a reliever last year, and might be in a better position to help the team that way in the early going.

Still, in the long run, a starter is more valuable than a reliever, and the 2011 rotation right now has only two probable names – Clayton Kershaw & Chad Billingsley. McDonald wants to start, and in the long run it’s better for the team that he does, successfully. Will he still get that opportunity?

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