McDonald sharp in Pirates’ loss

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BRADENTON, Fla. – Alex Cobb said that knowing he has a spot in the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation has freed him to work on pitches without worrying about results.


There has been no cause for concern with the results of his past two outings. On Thursday, the 25-year-old right-hander allowed just one hit, no runs, no walks and struck out five in four innings in a 4-2 win over the Pirates.


The Rays scored four unearned runs against Jeanmar Gomez after Pittsburgh third baseman Gaby Sanchez was charged with a throwing error with two outs in the seventh inning. Wil Myers reached base and pinch-runner Hak-Ju Lee scored on the error, then Mike Fontenot singled and Tim Beckham hit a two-run double to make it 3-0.


The Pirates had only two hits going into the ninth. Matt Hague singled, Jared Goedert walked and Russell Martin doubled off Jake Odorizzi to make it 4-2.


Pittsburgh right-hander James McDonald gave up a single to the first batter he faced but no more. He walked the first two batters in the second but got out of the inning unscathed and finished with three walks and one strikeout in four scoreless innings, his best outing so far this spring.


“I was happy with the way I got a ground ball and a double-play,” McDonald said. “I’m big on that, not letting innings get too big. . I had to just step back, slow it down, refocus and make the next pitch. I think I got a little ahead of myself and sped the game up a little.”


McDonald gave up three home runs in his previous outing and entered the game with an ERA of 7.20.


“He’s getting a little sharper,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He was able to throw all four of his pitches. He controlled the running game and picked off a runner as well so it was a good day for him.”


Last season for Rivera: New York Yankees’ reliever Mariano Rivera plans to announce this weekend that he will retire after the 2013 season, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press Thursday.


The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because there was no official statement. A news conference was called for Saturday at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, Fla.


The 43-year-old closer is baseball’s saves leader with 608. He is regarded as one of the best clutch pitchers in history, posting a record 42 postseason saves with an 0.70 ERA while helping the Yankees win five World Series championships.


Surgery for Furcal: St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow next week.


The team did not say in its statement Thursday how long the three-time All-Star will be out. Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist, examined Furcal on Wednesday and will perform the procedure.


The 35-year-old Furcal injured the elbow late last season. On March 3, the team told the three-time All-Star to stop baseball activity after a major setback in his rehabilitation from a torn ligament.


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