PITTSBURGH -- One could hardly tell that Brandon Wood, fresh off a red-eye flight from California to Pittsburgh, was running on two hours of sleep. Minutes after donning his new No. 2 jersey, Wood smiled and spoke glowingly about the opportunity to revive his career with the Pirates.
Wood arrives having previously known only one organization. He was picked by the Angels in the first round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft and remained in their system until being designated for assignment this past week. The Pirates, looking for another option at short, plucked Wood off waivers.
"I'm definitely happy," Wood said of the change of scenery. "You get to know an organization for so long that it's hard to leave because you're leaving your friends. But from a baseball standpoint, I come to a good place. There is a much better opportunity for me here than there was in Anaheim."
On Saturday, Wood talked about freeing himself of the external expectations that loomed over him with the Angels. Once one of baseball's top prospects, Wood never found his footing in the Majors. In parts of five seasons, he hit .168 with 11 homers in 173 games. That was a far cry from his torrid Minor League numbers, which included 43 homers in 2005.
"I had a black cloud over my head," Wood said, speaking of the external pressure. "I would get 30 or 40 at-bats here or there and struggle, and it was like, 'Why isn't this kid hitting a home run every seven at-bats?' I always had that around my head. I'm just here to relax and play baseball and make it fun again."
The Pirates haven't specifically divulged how the playing time will be split between Wood and Ronny Cedeno at short. But Wood is expected to get plenty of at-bats. He will also be an option at third or first, and possibly at second base after he gets some defensive work there.
Upon Wood's arrival on Saturday, Pittsburgh optioned Pedro Ciriaco back to Triple-A. Ciriaco had been called up on Friday as reinforcement until Wood landed in Pittsburgh.
Pirates hope McDonald can right the ship
PITTSBURGH -- With five days off in between starts, James McDonald has ample time to work one-on-one with pitching coach Ray Searage on whatever the two deem necessary to get the right-hander back on track by Wednesday.
Manager Clint Hurdle didn't downplay the need for McDonald to continue focusing on his mechanics -- particularly on the line McDonald's body takes toward the plate in his delivery. However, Hurdle also offered a much more simplistic solution.
"He needs to pitch," Hurdle said. "I don't think he's been pitching. There's been more throwing going on. The emphasis on mechanics -- yes, he needs to tighten things up -- but he needs to pound the bottom of the zone. You've got to pound the bottom of the zone, and the curveball needs to be sharp and tightened up."
McDonald has not had an impressive start this year, with the most recent of his four starts being especially bad. He was chased from an outing against the Marlins on Thursday after allowing eight earned runs in three innings. He's now given up 21 earned runs in 18 2/3 innings.
What Hurdle said isn't of paramount concern so far, though, is McDonald's velocity. While McDonald could get his fastball up to 95-96 mph at times last year, it's now sitting consistently in the 91-93 mph range. That said, McDonald's fastball never regularly stayed in the mid-90s, which is why his average velocity this year (92.1) is only a tick below his average velocity last season (92.3).
"Sometimes the velocity is not there because your mechanics aren't in line," Hurdle said. "One could be the cause of the other. I'm not going to hang everything on a gun. It's all about location and it's all about late movement, whether it's 85 or 95. We'd like to see the crispness back. That's what I'd really like to see."
McDonald's next outing will come against the defending World Series champion Giants.
Werth's grandfather has legacy in Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH -- Memories of former Pirates infielder Ducky Schofield were stirred up and shared at PNC Park prior to Saturday -- and from inside the visitors' dugout, no less.
Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth is the grandson of Schofield, who played 19 seasons in the Major Leagues, with parts of eight of those in Pittsburgh. One of those eight seasons was 1960, making Schofield a member of the franchise's third World Series championship club.
Schofield was a bench player for most of the season, but he was thrust into a starting role in September after shortstop Dick Groat was hurt. Schofield hit .248 while playing 576 games for the Pirates.
Plenty familiar with Schofield's legacy in Pittsburgh, Werth reflected on his grandfather's career upon his arrival this weekend.
"You see that clip a lot on TV of [Bill] Mazeroski's home run when he's coming home," Werth said. "Every time you see it -- there is No. 11 jumping around the pile. It's definitely a moment in my family's history and obviously Pittsburgh sports history. It's a special thing for me, because my grandfather had a long career."
"People come up to me all the time, especially people from Pittsburgh, and they tell me they remember my grandfather and what he did for the team and the organization and the city, and it's pretty special for me."
Pitchers Phillip Irwin and Victor Black have both missed the start of the Minor League season due to shoulder irritation. Director of player development Kyle Stark said that Irwin, a 21st-round Draft pick in 2009, is close to joining one of the organization's affiliates. Black, Stark said, is throwing off a mound and making progress in Bradenton, Fla. The Pirates have Black solidifying his delivery and arm slot to ease his shoulder issue.
Outfielder Starling Marte, who was ranked by MLB.com as the organization's eighth-best prospect, finished with six RBIs in Double-A Altoona's 15-inning win on Friday. Altoona scored 11 unanswered runs in an 11-5 victory.
Saturday marked Joe Beimel's first home game in Pittsburgh since 2003. Beimel left the organization that next offseason and didn't return until signing with the Pirates in January. He missed the opening homestand this year after being slowed by arm problems this spring.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.