James McDonald! Yeah, that's right. McDonald was awesome in his Pirates debut, striking out eight and allowing only a walk and four singles in six innings. I missed the first few innings, but McDonald still looked great even when I got out of class. Even in the sixth, he was regularly hitting 92 MPH and touching 93, and throwing a hard-breaking curve and a good changeup. I just checked the gamethread, and apparently he threw as hard as 96 at the start of the game. The Rockies appeared to have a lot of trouble making solid contact off him. As I suggested over at SB Nation Pittsburgh, any Pirate who pitches this well in his first start begs comparisons to Jeff Karstens, who also was awesome in his Bucs debut, but unlike Karstens, McDonald obviously has a legitimate big-league repertoire. The contrast between his fastball and his change could really give major-league hitters trouble.
The rest of the team looked really good tonight, too - Garrett Jones and Ronny Cedeno homered, and Wilfredo Ledezma actually pitched a good inning in the seventh. The Bucs lost the shutout only when Cedeno muffed a grounder in the eighth.
Chris Resop pitched the ninth, and I was less excited about his performance than I was about what I saw of McDonald, but he looked good - his fastball is straight, but it comes in at 92-95 MPH, and he appears to be able to throw it for strikes consistently. Locating his breaking ball might be a bit trickier for him, but it's good enough to be a change of pace. He looks like he'll probably be a reliever, and not a starter, in the majors.
There was a bunch of fun news in the minors tonight. Anthony Watson started for Altoona and shut down Akron for six innings. He struggled in his first two starts this year after spending most of the season in the bullpen, but his overall stat line is still excellent, and it might be time to start thinking of him as a fringe prospect again. Starling Marte, back with Bradenton now, has three hits so far against Brevard County. Jose Ascanio pitched two innings in the next step of his rehab and struck out four batters. Zack Von Rosenberg pitched six scoreless innings and allowed only two hits for State College, and Mel Rojas went 2-for-4 with a double.