Back from a two-day visit with his mentor, James McDonald said he was ready to alter the course of his trying rookie season in a new role.
The Dodgers' two-time minor-league pitcher of the year spent Friday and Saturday working with former knuckleballer Charlie Hough, the pitching coach he played under at Class-A Inland Empire in 2007.
Hough's advice, as McDonald recalled it: "Be aggressive. Don't be afraid to give up hits. Attack guys."
McDonald acknowledged his failure to do that in his brief stint as the Dodgers' fifth starter. McDonald was 1-1 with an 8.78 earned-run average in four starts and was replaced by Jeff Weaver in the rotation.
McDonald said he and Hough spoke about recapturing the feeling he had last year as a September call-up.
He didn't give up any runs in four games in September and was a surprise inclusion on the playoff roster.
He was lights-out in his two postseason appearances out of the bullpen, pitching 5 1/3 scoreless innings in the National League Championship Series.
"I just remember going out there and I had nothing to lose," McDonald said.
The difference this year was that he had something to lose -- namely, a spot on the major league roster.
But he said he's confident he'll get over this rough patch.
He and Hough watched videos of his outings this season and compared them to those from last season.
He said he noticed some mechanical flaws and worked on ironing them out in a bullpen session Saturday.
McDonald said he heard the boos from the fans at Dodger Stadium when he walked off the field in his last start, during which he lasted only 1 2/3 innings.
"You hear it, but it's not going to bother you," he said. "When you perform badly, you get booed. It's not like I was expecting claps. I'm more disappointed that I'm letting the team down."
Turning back the clock
Weaver will do something today that he hasn't done in four seasons -- start a game for the Dodgers.
But there's a potential obstacle.
Weaver signed with the Dodgers with the intention of being a long reliever. Of the four games he pitched in triple-A Albuquerque, three were in relief. And he was called up to the majors as a long reliever.
"It was definitely going to happen at some point," Weaver said, shrugging. "Better sooner than later."
Weaver, 32, pitched four scoreless innings on Thursday in relief of McDonald.
He says he thinks he can squeeze out another two innings.
Weaver is 12-13 with a 3.77 earned-run average in 36 career games, including 35 starts, at Dodger Stadium.
Mindful that the warmer weather is on the horizon, Manager Joe Torre says he plans to rest Manny Ramirez once every 10 days or so. . . . Trainer Stan Conte said he didn't know when opening-day starter Hiroki Kuroda or left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo would be ready to be activated. Kuroda, who still feels tightness in his left side, played catch on Monday. Kuo is receiving treatment in the mornings on his strained elbow, which has undergone four surgeries. Asked if Kuo would be back this month, Conte replied, "I don't know."