ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Ben McDonald said his elbow felt fine after throwing 68 pitches last night in the first test of his strained flexor muscle in a game.
McDonald blew most of his 60- to 70-pitch allowance in the first inning when he threw 43 pitches, giving up two runs to the Pawtucket Red Sox in an International League game. The Red Wings went on to win, 6-5, on a leadoff home run by Benny Distefano leading off the eighth inning.
"I was pretty disappointed," he said. "I wanted to go four or five. I didn't realize I threw that many. When I came out and they said I threw that many, I couldn't believe it."
But he came out of it feeling fine, even after deflecting a line drive off his right hip to third baseman Craig Worthington for the final out of the third inning.
"The elbow is fine," he said, as was his right hip. "I'm encouraged with it. I'm not totally satisfied with my outing. I gave up a couple of runs. I think this is a start. The main thing was to be pain-free."
McDonald threw 39 strikes and 29 balls, 23 in the first inning.
"It was anxiety being out there, first-inning jitters," said McDonald, who has been on the disabled list since May 24. "That will happen because I haven't been out there in a while. I was very nervous."
He finished by throwing 19 of his last 25 pitches for strikes.
Red Wings manager Greg Biagini liked what he saw toward the end of McDonald's outing.
"I was impressed," Biagini said. "It was looking like I might have pull him during the inning. He only had 12 pitches left [on his pre-assigned limit] going out to start that inning."
McDonald will leave Rochester this morning to join the Orioles in Kansas City, Mo. He is scheduled to throw on the side tomorrow.
"The big test will be how the arm bounces back," the right-hander said.
Biagini said McDonald looked a little rusty at first.
"It was a rough first inning," Biagini said. "He was off the plate and up. He was falling behind hitters."
It was probably just a mechanical thing. But when you can't get your pitching coach out there, it makes it rough."
McDonald showed he could bounce back against the Red Sox. After throwing 43 pitches in the first inning, he needed only 10 to get out of the third inning, and that included giving up a single to Mo Vaughn and a double to Scott Cooper to put the runners in scoring position with none out.
He retired Bob Zupcic on a first-pitch pop-up, Rick Lancellotti on a first-pitch ground ball and John Valentin on a second-pitch line drive that McDonald kick-saved over to Worthington.
"That was a confidence-builder," McDonald said. "I think I needed that. I don't think I would have wanted to go out there and not get a guy on. That wouldn't have done me a whole lot of good. I had to get in a sticky situation and get out of it."
He had all the trouble he couldn't have wanted in the first inning.
He walked leadoff batter Jeff Stone, who stole second and scored when second baseman Shane Turner missed the throw from catcher Jeff Tackett. McDonald walked Jim Pankovits and threw a wild pitch to Vaughn.
Then controversy struck.
After the wild pitch, Worthington headed toward the mound. In the Triple-A Alliance, if an infielder steps on the dirt of the mound, his team is charged with a visit.
When pitching coach Dick Bosman tried to visit McDonald after the next batter, Cooper, doubled, plate umpire Bob Long intercepted him and warned him that this would be the Red Wings' second visit, and McDonald would have to leave the game.
Biagini argued the point, and then played the game under protest.
"[McDonald's problems were] probably just a mechanical thing," Biagini said. "But when you can't get your pitching coach out there, it makes it rough."
During the nearly five-minute delay, McDonald played catch with Tackett.
"It was a little disturbing," McDonald said. "I was trying to find out what I was doing wrong, then to have to sit and wait five minutes while this was going on."
McDonald issued two more walks to load the bases before ending the inning on a fly ball.