With the days dwindling in the season and the Pittsburgh Pirates holding out hope that they can reach the postseason in 20 years, they decided they could not wait any longer for James McDonald to regain his dazzling first-half form.
McDonald was dropped from the rotation Sunday and will be used in relief for the remainder of the season.
Rookie right-hander Kyle McPherson will move into the rotation and make his first major-league start Wednesday night against Milwaukee. McPherson has posted a 1.54 ERA in seven relief appearances.
Manager Clint Hurdle said McDonald should be available to work out of the bullpen on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game home series with Milwaukee. McDonald pitched just 3 2/3 innings on Friday in a loss to the Cubs at Chicago, giving up four runs.
"As the games count down, we've got to look to give ourselves the best shot that we have of winning the game," Hurdle said. "Based on James' inconsistency in the second half ... As I shared with him, when James is right, James is a valuable addition to our ballclub. He's had his challenges in the second half."
McDonald is 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA in 29 starts this season but has gone 3-5 with a 7.08 in 12 starts since the All-Star break after going 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA in 17 starts in the first half of the season.
The Pirates fell to three games behind St. Louis in the race for the second National League wild card after losing to the Cubs 13-9 at Chicago on Sunday. The Pirates also trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by two games and Milwaukee by a half-game with 17 remaining.