Pitcher Wandy Rondriguez expresses his frustration after giving up two runs in the third inning Saturda, April 19, 2014 against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park.
Pitcher Wandy Rondriguez expresses his frustration during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers last month at PNC Park.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pirates parted ways with Wandy Rodriguez Thursday, making a $7.5 million decision to cut their losses in regards to the beleaguered left-hander.
General manager Neal Huntington said Rodriguez's spot in the rotation will be filled by Brandon Cumpton or former all-star Jeff Locke, both of whom are pitching well for Class AAA Indianapolis.
The announcement will be made Monday in New York.
Rodriguez, 35, is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in six starts this season and struggled at points in every one -- but never more than Wednesday night's disastrous outing against the Orioles.
Rodriguez threw 61 pitches in just 12/3 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits before the bullpen door mercifully swung open.
"The stuff, the command, the ability to get major league hitters out just wasn't where we felt it needed to be compared to the other options that we have," Huntington said. "I think he recognizes that we felt like we needed to make a move. It's not been the quality that Wandy is used to. The velocity is down a tick. The breaking ball is down a tick. The changeup doesn't have the same confidence in it. He recognizes we've got some pretty good arms that are waiting for their turn."
Rodriguez was officially designated for assignment to make room to reactivate Russell Martin from the disabled list.
The decision means the Pirates will foot $7.5 million of his 2014 salary, which is the their portion of a $13 million player option Rodriguez exercised after 2013. The Houston Astros, his former team, will pay the remaining $5.5 million. The combined $13 million made him the Pirates' highest-paid player.
If Rodriguez clears waivers and signs elsewhere, his new team would pay the major league minimum, leaving the Pirates on the hook for most of the 2014 salary still due, which is roughly $5.3 million.
Rodriguez spent just shy of a month on the disabled list with inflammation in his knee, and spent the majority of 2013 dealing with a forearm issue that required the team to shut him down in September.
Manager Clint Hurdle said he suspects Rodriguez might need to reinvent himself to catch on with another team, and the Pirates can't afford the innings that might take.
His fastball sat below 90 mph Wednesday and the location of his breaking ball was spotty. Almost everything that was hit was hit hard.
"To try and help him find his way back at the major league level right now, we didn't feel it would be productive for us. It would be challenging," Hurdle said. "We tabled the volume of work before the injury and then we took a good, hard look at the appearance [last week] in Milwaukee, the appearance [Wednesday]. And in our mindset, he's made every effort. He's healthy. What we believe would be the next step for him, we think he might need to recreate himself. But he might not. And it's not fair to ask a guy to do something if he's not bought into it, it's not like we got in-depth with the conversation."
What is clear is that Cumpton and Locke have made a case to join the starting rotation for some time.
Huntington said he won't place a premium on adding a second left-hander to the rotation -- a goal Locke would fulfill -- but instead will choose the best pitcher.
As of Thursday, the jury was out on who that will be.
"We're about as split a camp as you can get on the people that we've asked: Should we go with Jeff? Should we go with Brandon?" Huntington said. "Most of it is, Brandon's throwing the ball great. He does things that we love. Jeff, our guys feel, that he is back. And there's been a start or two where the velocity has been actually a little bit better than it was a year ago. The breaking ball is good, the changeup is good, the command is good."
In two spot starts for the Pirates this year, Cumpton has allowed 11 hits and six earned runs for a 4.26 ERA in 122/3 innings.
Locke went 51/3 innings May 5 in his lone Pirates start this season, giving up six earned runs on eight hits.
But he has been steadily returning to form since a spring training oblique injury.
"We've got a really good, really challenging decision," Huntington said. "We've got the ability to make a change if it doesn't work, or another option to come up if we face another injury which unfortunately we probably will."
Cumpton is 4-1 with a 1.35 ERA with Indianapolis and allowed just one run in eight innings in his most recent win. Locke allowed five hits and three runs in his start Thursday for Indianapolis. He struck out four but also walked five batters. In his previous outing, Locke pitched seven shutout innings. Cumpton is scheduled to pitch Monday.
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