The old Wandy — as Pirates manager Clint Hurdle called him — is back.
After a long and difficult year mostly on the disabled list, Wandy Rodriguez is scheduled to make his first start today at PNC Park since May 31.
“He’s been in a good place all spring. Every building block he needed to take care of he was able to take care of throughout March. This’ll be the next step,” said Hurdle. “He sure does feel good. The old Wandy’s back.”
Rodriguez missed the bulk of 2013 with a forearm injury to his pitching arm and was eventually shut down after multiple comeback attempts.
He had a positive spring, finishing with a 3.09 ERA in 112⁄3 innings.
He was visibly relieved in his first outing when he felt no pain, progressed nicely leading up to the opening week of the season, and, by all accounts, is ready to go.
“We’re going to run him out there. It’s hard to be yourself when you can’t compete, you’re injured, can’t participate and you can’t help. It was challenging for him to be in that environment last year,” said Hurdle. “Hadn’t been in that playoff situation since his rookie season.”
Rodriguez pitched nearly 200 innings for four consecutive seasons before 2013 and could prove to be a very key pitcher for the Pirates.
“To have the plug pulled on him and still be around trying to work your way back — that can be a challenging spot to be in,” said Hurdle. “I thought he handled it well. He’s looking forward to pitching I do know that.”
Waiting for word on Taillon
The Pirates did not have an update on pitching prospect Jameson Taillon, who sought a second opinion on his sore elbow earlier this week.
“Still working through the process,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a text message. “Will pass along information when appropriate.”
Taillon experienced elbow discomfort near the end of spring training. An initial MRI exam showed no ligament damage.
Encouraged by Snider
Travis Snider — the healthy version — has given the Pirates confidence to bat him second to start the season. That puts him between Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen.
Snider went 0 for 3 with a walk in the No. 2 spot opening day and was there again Wednesday.
He hit .340 with a .392 on-base percentage this spring, the best of his Pirates career since he was obtained by Toronto in a 2012 trade.
“We’re optimistic that the on-base percentage will play out at the major league level, close in the vicinity of what it’s done for him in the minor leagues,” said Hurdle. “He’s healthy. He had the best spring that we’ve been able to lay eyes on.”
Snider was slowed by a toe injury last year that eventually required surgery, but came into spring healthy and ready to go.
“The best he’s moved around on the bases, in the outfield since we’ve had him,” said Hurdle. “I liked the look of it in spring training, we’ll see how it plays itself here in the season.”
The Pirates’ first official foray into expanded instant replay opening day was “very fluid” said Hurdle who won a 10th-inning challenge on a pickoff at first base.
“We’re all going to learn a lot on this journey together and we’ll see where it goes,” he said. “It’s already proved itself to be very interesting.”
Hurdle said he has kept his expectations in check regarding how long challenges will take and how smoothly they will go because of the small sample size.
“I know the umpires are in, they’re making every effort to make this work,” said Hurdle. “I know the managers that I’ve spoken with we’re going to make sure we approach this representatively.”
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter: @JennMenendez.