Relief for Wandy Rodriguez in first start of spring

NOTEBOOK



BRADENTON, Fla. -- It had been nine long months since Wandy Rodriguez previously took the mound for the Pirates in a game situation.

Rodriguez made his spring-training debut Saturday at McKechnie Field showing no sign of the left forearm injury that derailed his 2013 season.

The exhale was nearly audible.

"My first pitch I felt a little bit, not nervous, but I don't know how to explain that but I felt something," Rodriguez said. "After that, the key is concentration. Put the ball wherever I want, and that's what I did."

Rodriguez pitched one hitless inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, hitting his first batter, before striking out two and ending the inning with a popup. Consecutive errors allowed a runner to score, but it was unearned.

The sigh of relief was echoed by the club, which is hoping for a productive year by this left-hander who pitched nearly 200 innings for four consecutive years before 2013.

"Happy for him. Good step forward for him today. He's probably still a little nervous until after that first pitch and then you could see the confidence as the inning went on," manager Clint Hurdle said. "To get a competitive inning like this, it was good for him. Put his mind at ease and I think he can build off this. We'll see where he can take it. But it sure was fun to see him smile again."

The current plan is to progress Rodriguez to multiple innings in his next outing, according to Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage. Sunday and Monday will be rest days, then he will throw a full bullpen session Tuesday, and rest for two more days before returning to the mound.

Rodriguez was smiling in the dugout, Searage said, and seemed truly happy and relieved by his outing.

"After the inning was over and when I went into the dugout he was relieved," Searage said. "He was very happy about his stuff. He and [catcher Russell] Martin had an exchange in the dugout, and Russ was telling him what he saw and Wandy was telling Russ how good he felt and that the ball was jumping out of his hand and stuff. Wandy is a tough read. You've just got to pick at him a little bit before you get to him, and before you know it he'll tell you."

Rodriguez plunked Sean Rodriguez two pitches into his start to put a man on, but followed with a swing-and-miss strikeout then nearly picked off Rodriguez trying to steal second if not for a throwing error by first baseman Matt Hague.

His fastball command looked good, and progressed as the inning did.

Rodriguez said he didn't feel a thing in his forearm: "No, nothing. I didn't feel anything."

The injury to the flexor tendon in his left arm claimed most of the 2013 season from Rodriguez, who hadn't pitched since June 5 at Atlanta.

Two failed rehabilitation attempts led to eventual shutdown in September.

Before 2013, Rodriguez pitched at least 191 innings dating to his 2009 season with the Houston Astros.

Buried treasure

* Attendance Saturday at McKechnie Field was 7,959, a sellout which ranked as the third-largest crowd in the ballpark's history.

* Chase d'Arnaud cleared outright waivers and was sent to Indianapolis. Travis Ishikawa remains day to day with discomfort in his right hamstring.

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.


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