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04/12/09 4:26 PM ET

McDonald pushed back in LA rotation

Rookie will work out of bullpen until next start on Sunday

PHOENIX -- Rookie fifth starter James McDonald will be pushed back three days instead of pitching the next time his spot comes up in the rotation on Thursday, manager Joe Torre said Sunday. Meanwhile, McDonald will be available to pitch out of the bullpen.

McDonald, in his first Major League start Friday night, pitched two scoreless innings then unraveled in the third, allowing five runs on two hits in 2 1/3 innings. McDonald walked three and hit a batter.

Torre said the decision was not based on the way McDonald pitched but was facilitated by the odd scheduling that gives the Dodgers a day off on Tuesday, one day after Monday's home opener against San Francisco.

"I had told Mac that even if he pitches well, of those two pitchers [Eric Stults being the other] on the staff, it makes more sense to do it this way with his experience last year," said Torre, referring to McDonald's impressive relief work at the end of last year. "[McDonald] can help us during games [out of the bullpen] more than Stults could."

Torre said Stults will start Thursday, followed by Randy Wolf on Friday and Chad Billingsley on Saturday. McDonald will start again next Sunday, April 19. Torre said he welcomes McDonald's arm in the bullpen, where his back-end relievers [Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Cory Wade] are pretty much limited to one-inning appearances, with back-to-back appearances uncertain.

McDonald's usage out of the bullpen during the week will determine how deep he'd be expected to pitch in the Sunday game against Colorado.

"Honey [pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] and I talked and we can piece that game together," Torre said. "We can use all of the relievers. The off-day the next day helps us."

Torre said that another factor in the decision was Stults' history of being more effective as a starter than out of the bullpen. Stults, subbing for injured Opening Day starter Hiroki Kuroda on Saturday night, allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings for the win.

"It seems more natural for Stults to be the starter," Torre said. "With his stuff, it's more conducive to a routine that gives him time to prepare mentally. To me, that makes sense. Stuff-wise, Mac gives you more variety out of the bullpen. And you don't have to be concerned with lefty-righty matchups."

As Torre pointed out, McDonald originally was viewed for a bullpen role coming into this season but was drafted into the fifth-starter competition because none of the original candidates pitched well enough to win the job. Although McDonald was a starter most of his Minor League career, his fastball gained velocity coming out of the bullpen last year and some club officials believe he might be best used there.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.