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Pirates acquire pitcher Wandy Rodriguez in trade

| Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 9:56 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Wandy Rodriguez pitches against the Pirates May 13, 2012 at PNC Park. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates traded for starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez on Tuesday. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Houston Astros pitcher Wandy Rodriguez gives a thumbs-up in the dugout moments after finding out that he had been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Karen Warren)
Houston Astros pitcher Wandy Rodriguez (51) shakes hands with his teammates moments after finding out that he had been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Karen Warren)

For the past few years, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has plotted how to attack Houston Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.

The next time Rodriguez pitches, however, he'll be wearing a Pirates uniform.

The Pirates acquired Rodriguez and cash from the Houston Astros on Tuesday night in exchange for minor league pitchers Rudy Owens and Colton Cain and minor league outfielder Robbie Grossman.

“I'm happy,” Hurdle said. “I've had to prep for him for years, since he broke into the league. Even when I was (hitting coach) at Texas, we faced him in interleague play. He's been tough to hit and tough to beat.”

Rodriguez, 33, is 7-9 with a 3.79 ERA and has made a league-high 21 starts. Since the start of the 2009 season, Rodriguez trails only Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels among National League lefties in strikeouts (626) and wins (43).

Rodriguez's strikeouts have dropped the past two years, but the Pirates are confident pitching coach Ray Searage will help him regain his form.

“It's a fresh start and a club that will welcome him,” Hurdle said. “I think that will help. I still think there's a quality skill set in there.”

In 18 career outings against the Pirates, Rodriguez went 8-5 with a 3.98 ERA and racked up 124 strikeouts in 110 innings.

“I know he's been dealing against us,” reliever Jared Hughes said. “It's another weapon. I'm looking forward to meeting him.”

The Pirates will get $12.2 million in cash toward Rodriguez's salary. Rodriguez this year is making $10 million, of which the Pirates will pay $1.7 million. The Pirates will pick up $8.5 million of his $13 million salary in 2013.

The contract has a $13 million player option for 2014, of which the Pirates would pay $7.5 million. If the option is not exercised, the Astros will not have to send the $5.5 million to the Pirates.

“Part of the (trade's) appeal is multiple years of control,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “We like the innings, we like the strikeouts, we like the ERA, we like the competitor. He's very quietly been one of the better pitchers in the majors over the last three or four years.”

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said he fielded several offers for Rodriguez, but the Pirates were aggressive.

“It was a fairly competitive situation,” Ludhow said. “Pittsburgh put their best foot forward, and it really feels like Wandy's an important part of its playoff picture this year. They made us essentially an offer we couldn't refuse.”

Acquiring Rodriguez should be a boost to the starting rotation, given the recent struggles of James McDonald, who took the loss Tuesday in a 5-1 decision against the Chicago Cubs, and worries about the durability of Erik Bedard and Jeff Karstens.

Huntington didn't say how Rodriguez's arrival will affect the rotation — who will go, what roles will be redefined. The team must clear a spot on its active for Rodriguez, meaning reliever Evan Meek could be sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis. The departure of Owens opened a spot on the 40-man roster for Rodriguez.

The Astros played Tuesday in Houston. Rodriguez will stay there to join the Pirates when they open a four-game series Thursday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Rodriguez's last start was Monday against the Cincinnati Reds. If he stays on five days' rest, he'd be on track to pitch again Saturday against the Astros — the same day Bedard is scheduled to pitch.

After adding Rodriguez, Huntington has more work to do before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“We will continue to look to add a position player and look to add to this offense if we can,” Huntington said.

The Pirates have managed just seven hits over their past 19 innings. Picking up a veteran hitter such as outfielder Shane Victorino, whom Philadelphia is shopping to contenders, could provide a spark.

Victorino, 31, will be a free agent after this season, so he'd likely be a rental player. But Victorino's combination of speed, slick defense and offensive ability should make him worth the price. The Phillies like reliever Brad Lincoln, who also has value as a spot starter.

Earlier Tuesday night, shortstop Alen Hanson, an emerging prospect, was pulled in the first inning of Low-A West Virginia's game at Greensboro, creating speculation that he was about to be dealt. However, a team source confirmed Hanson was yanked for not hustling on a play and not because of an injury or imminent trade.

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