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.
RHP Jeff Karstens is working out of the bullpen but manager Clint Hurdle did not rule out a return to the rotation before the end of the season. Karstens was 5-4 with a 3.89 ERA in 15 starts before suffering a strained left hip in his last start, Aug. 31 at Milwaukee. Hurdle wants to see how Karstens' hip responds to game action before considering giving him a start.
2B Neil Walker was in the lineup for the second day in a row Sunday and went 1-for-4 in a 13-9 loss to the Cubs in Chicago. Walker made his first start since Aug. 26 on Saturday and was 0-for-5 in a 7-6 victory over the Cubs. He missed 15 games with lower-back soreness before returning to action as a pinch-hitter last Friday against the Cubs.
OF Travis Snider started Saturday against the Cubs, going 1-for-5. Snider was limited to pinch-hitting duty for 10 days because of a strained right hamstring, an injury that also limited him for part of August.
1B Jeff Clement is being scouted by Japanese teams and said he would consider playing in the Far East next season if he is dropped from the Pirates' 40 man-roster at the end of the season. Clement hit .276 with 16 home runs and 57 RBI in 112 games with Class AAA Indianapolis this season but was 2-for-15 (.133) in 16 games with the Pirates going into Sunday.
RHP Kevin Correia (10-9, 4.29) will start Monday against Cubs LHP Travis Wood (6-11, 4.23) in the finale of a four-game series at Chicago. Correia has gone 9-4 with a 4.17 ERA in 16 starts since losing five straight starts, April 29-May 20. He also has allowed just seven earned runs in his last 24 1/3 innings for 2.55 ERA in that span.
By The Numbers:
100—National League-leading runs scored by CF Andrew McCutchen after he crossed the plate once in Sunday's loss. McCutchen became the first Pirates player to score 100 runs in a season since Nate McLouth had 113 in 2008, and McCutcheon is trying to become the first Pittsburgh player to lead the league in that category since Barry Bonds had 109 in 1992.
Quote To Note:
"The confidence is there. The wherewithal just to make pitches and attack people is what we're seeing now. He's just getting the ball and firing. There's no complicating things upstairs."
—Manager Clint Hurdle on LHP Wandy Rodriguez, who is 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in his last five starts after going 0-3 with a 5.47 ERA in his first four starts following his acquisition from Houston on July 24.