PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' revised rotation has a new look and a new leader. James McDonald will get the ball first in Milwaukee on Friday, when the Bucs will begin the second-half defense of their division lead.
Manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage adjusted the lineup of starting pitchers based on several factors, but the overriding objective was to vary opponents' looks by separating hard-throwing right-handers McDonald and A.J. Burnett.
In the new alignment, McDonald will be followed by Kevin Correia, then Burnett will go in the final game of the weekend series against the Brewers. Jeff Karstens and Erik Bedard are on tap for the first two games of the ensuing series, in Colorado.
The shuffle is surprising given the success McDonald and Burnett have had since they began following each other. Entering Burnett's start Sunday against the Giants, the Pirates had a record of 10-1 in those games.
"We did want to split them up, to maybe present a different look after each guy throws," Hurdle said. "Having them back to back, you can say we're going for the kill, that's true. I don't know if there's a perfect equation, but we looked at a bunch of different ways to go, and this is what we came up with, and we're comfortable with it."
Getting pushed to the back of the rotation will give Bedard 11 days between starts to work through his recent problems. The left-hander has not made it through the fifth inning in four of his last seven starts.
"This gives Erik the opportunity to throw a couple of sides and work on some things, so it's time he'll benefit from," Hurdle said. "He's healthy, which is one of the most frustrating things for him. He's going through a tough stretch. We're trying to make sense of it all, and he's been good with his part of it."