Originally written on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/28/12
James McDonald, a budding National League All-Star, had been something of a frustration for the Pirates the better part of his two years in Pittsburgh. McDonald has the 95-mph heat, the 12-to-6 curve and plenty enough poise. But something was missing. One March afternoon in Clearwater, Fla., McDonald was toying with a slider in warm-ups with catcher Rod Barajas. He had thrown the pitch before, but never in a game, but this one connected in more ways than one. Barajas immediately went to pitching coach Ray Searage, who went to manager Clint Hurdle, and the beginning of a fine season was born. It's not a devastating slider, and it's been inconsistent. But the mere versatility it offers has been a huge help. "It's given him two different breaking pitches that can violate two different lanes against hitters," Hurdle said. "The curve is more two-plane, top to bottom. The slider is side to side. It's become a weapon." McDonald used all his weapons to hold the first-place R...
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