Is the Past McDonald's Prologue to the Future

Was it Yogi Berra who said, "It's deja vu all over again"? Whether it was Yogi who uttered that now classic redundancy, righthanded starter James McDonald could well be able to explain its significance.

Although James is in his fourth season with the Dodger organization, he's in only his second as a pitcher. Make that the first full year on the mound but as he toils for Columbus there are echoes of that first year that resound about his performances.

McDonald has the pitches to be labeled a true prospect- a fast ball that rests comfortably in the low 90's and a curve with plenty of spin and bite to it. He's shown that from the get-go; yet, in that first year (2003) he would flash quality stuff, throw some excellent innings only to be betrayed in some manner- either by his own doing or by lack of support.

There often was one inning when matters would go awry- where he'd walk himself into trouble or a play might not be made behind him; often, a combination of factors. Then, he'd go back to throwing good innings again. So, at the end of the season, though he held opposing batters to a .220 average and posted a decent 3.33 ERA, his Gulf Coast record was only 2-4.

The past two seasons have seen him attempt to be an outfielder. Tendinitis in his pitching arm kept him from the mound so he played elsewhere but lowly batting production doomed that enterprise. It was back to pitching in the final weeks at Ogden since the tendinitis had cleared up and James flashed more than enough of his old form there to convince one and all the pitching was to be past, present and future for him.

So, here it is working for the Catfish but finding some matters eerily familiar. He'll go along well, then for an inning or so, seem to lose his way- and generally, the ball game.

Saturday night, though, there was the James McDonald the Dodgers have been hoping for. He was in complete command for seven innings, allowing just four hits and nary a run. But can he build on that ?

McDonald has held South Atlantic League batters to a .233 mark. He's struck out 110 men in 103 innings so you know his pitches have life. Yet, he's only 3-9 at the present with a 4.28 ERA.

When you look at him you see a 6-5, 195 righthander who can be imposing. He won't be 22 until October and seems to be making up for that time spent in pursuits other than pitching. He's very athletic and is fast getting a grasp of how to handle matters.

Maybe it's still a bit too soon to seek consistency. But if Saturday's game is an indication of what's to come, that's the sort of flashback that McDonald and the Dodgers will take.

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