As I feared in my last post previewing the starting pitching situation pre-spring training, the Braves have already further complicated the issue by signing Wandy Rodriguez. The long-time Astro who spent the last two-and-a-half years not starting many games for the Pirates, Rodriguez joins an increasing battle for the fifth starter spot. Rodriguez received a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. If he makes the team, he will get a base salary of $2M.
That salary was about what Rodriguez would have made for the Phillies before their contract to secure the left-hander’s services fell through due to a failed physical. What exactly led to that failed physical is unknown, but Rodriguez did suffer through some knee inflammation last year before he was released by the Pirates and missed considerable action in 2013 due to a left forearm strain. He eventually had knee surgery last year in hopes of getting it back to 100%. Before that, Rodriguez was durable a pitcher as you could find, rounding out the Top 20 in innings pitched from 2007-2012.
But it’s 2015. What can the Braves expect now? Since being cut by Pittsburgh and rehabbing after knee surgery, Rodriguez made it back to the mound for seven innings in the Dominican Winter League, allowing a run, two walks, and striking out six. That doesn’t mean a lot, but it does mean he was at least healthy enough to get some time on the mound, which is important. Obviously, failing a physical makes it difficult to believe Rodriguez is going to do much, if anything, for the Braves in 2015, but if he can take a turn every fifth day, Rodriguez could allow the Braves the opportunity to keep Manny Banuelos in the minors to start the season. It could allow them to avoid having to start David Hale. For that matter, it could allow them the opportunity to turn Rodriguez into a prospect later on.
Overall, Rodriguez is a decent option to take a chance on. He won’t overpower you with his late 80’s velocity, though his curveball, historically, has been a plus pitch. He’ll get you out by being crafty and relentless. This is the type of pitcher that brings a certain degree of calmness to a young rotation. I like this pickup even if Rodriguez pitches no innings for the big league club. He’s worth a shot and who knows, you might get lucky. For a team with so many question marks, getting lucky is Atlanta’s best hope to surprise some people.