Wandy Rodriguez throws pain-free bullpen session

Rob Biertempfel
| Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, 7:21 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — The grin on Wandy Rodriguez's face Friday morning told how he felt after throwing his first bullpen session of spring training.

“I have good news for you guys,” Rodriguez told reporters minutes later in the Pirates clubhouse. “I threw my bullpen and didn't feel any (pain). I feel very good.”

Rodriguez missed half of last season due to tightness and lingering discomfort in his forearm. The left-hander was examined by Dr. James Andrews, who discovered tendinitis but no structural damage in Rodriguez's elbow.

After being shut down in mid-September, Rodriguez went into a period of extended rest before starting a return-to-pitch program. He began throwing soft toss in December at his home in the Dominican Republic, then threw from 70 feet during a voluntary minicamp in early January at Pirate City.

“I threw in the Dominican a little bit but not too many bullpens,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez worked out Friday with Jeanmar Gomez, Joely Rodriguez and nonroster invitee Josh Kinney. He threw 28 pitches — mostly fastballs with a couple of changeups and curveballs — to catcher Tony Sanchez while pitching coach Ray Searage looked on.

“He looked good,” Searage said. “There was no hesitation whatsoever in his throwing or his delivery. The ball came out of his hand good. He spun some off, threw some curveballs in the pen and on flat ground. It's very encouraging.”

Because of the injury, Rodriguez will be on a different pitching schedule.

At this stage of spring training, most pitchers throw a bullpen every other day. Rodriguez will get two days off between bullpen sessions.

“We'll go from pen to pen and see how he feels, so we can either add or subtract (days off) or hold steady,” Searage said. “There are no restrictions right now. The pens will dictate the amount of work and where he can go.”

The Pirates are being cautious with Rodriguez's program because they need his arm in the middle to back end of the starting rotation.

The departure of A.J. Burnett cut into the team's pitching depth, and no one knows what to expect from Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke, who endured rocky stretches last season.

Rodriguez admitted he was nervous before the workout Friday morning but seemed relaxed when it was over.

“Some guys would have difficulty saying they felt some butterflies,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “But Wandy said, ‘Yeah, I've got some,' so he's worked through them, and he'll feel more confidence the next time (he's) on the mound. I don't think it will take a long time for him to get to a comfort zone where it's, ‘I've taken care of that (nervousness), and I can just get down to pitching.' ”

Rodriguez said he threw “only three or four curves” Friday but will use the pitch more often over the next couple of weeks. He did not appear to be throwing his fastball with maximum effort, but that too soon will change.

“Every time I throw,” Rodriguez said, “I feel more comfortable.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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