Pirates notebook: Cutting ties with Rodriguez expensive for Pirates

Pirates pitcher Wandy Rodriguez waits to be removed from the game during the second inning against the Orioles on Wednesday, May 21, 2014, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Wandy Rodriguez waits to be removed from the game during the second inning against the Orioles on Wednesday, May 21, 2014, at PNC Park.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Rob Biertempfel
| Thursday, May 22, 2014, 3:36 p.m.

It did not take long for management to realize the Pirates are a better team without left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, the highest-paid pitcher in their starting rotation.

Rodriguez, a 10-year veteran, was designated for assignment Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours after he was rocked for the fifth time in six starts.

“We feel we have some better options, and it was time to make the move,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “Wandy's stuff, the command and the ability to get major league hitters out just wasn't where we felt it needed to be.”

Catcher Russell Martin came off the disabled list to fill Rodriguez's spot on the active roster. Martin served a one-game suspension Thursday and will return to the lineup Friday against the Washington Nationals.

Either right-hander Brandon Cumpton or left-hander Jeff Locke will be called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to start Monday against the New York Mets. Neither Huntington nor manager Clint Hurdle would reveal which pitcher has been chosen.

“Either way, we're in a position where we feel we've gotten better,” Hurdle said.

Rodriguez, 35, will be paid his full $13 million salary this year whether he signs with another club or not. The Pirates are on the hook for $7.5 million, with the other $5.5 million being paid by the Houston Astros, who traded Rodriguez to Pittsburgh on July 24, 2012.

Swallowing that much cash — nearly 10 percent of the Pirates' $75.2 million payroll — underscores the difficulty of Huntington's decision.

“You're always cognizant of how you're utilizing the dollars,” Huntington said. “Especially in the smaller markets, you always have to be aware of it.”

His high salary means Rodriguez almost certainly will not be claimed during the 10-day waiver period. If he signs later as a free agent, his new team will have to pay him only a pro-rated portion of the $500,000 major league minimum.

This is the second time in seven years Huntington has cut the club's highest-paid pitcher early in the season.

On April 27, 2008, right-hander Matt Morris was released after going 0-4 with a 9.67 ERA in five starts. The move left the Pirates on the hook for Morris' $10 million salary as well as a $1 million buyout for 2009.

Rodriguez (11-10, 4.16 in 31 games) was productive for at least part of his time in Pittsburgh.

But the left-hander was never the same pitcher after leaving a start June 5, 2013, in Atlanta with elbow soreness. He missed the rest of the season.

This year, Rodriguez looked good in spring training but was ineffective when the season began. He went on the DL on April 20 because of a swollen right knee. He was sharp May 15 against the Milwaukee Brewers but gave up six runs in 1 23 innings Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Sanchez back to Indy soon

With Martin active again, catcher Tony Sanchez will be sent back to Indianapolis. That move will be made when closer Jason Grilli is ready to come off the DL, which could happen as soon as Friday.

Wall joins Indy's bullpen

The Pirates claimed right-handed reliever Josh Wall off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels and optioned him to Indianapolis. To make room for Wall on the 40-man roster, righty Phil Irwin was designated for assignment.

Wall, 27, has made 15 outings, all in relief, over the past three seasons with the Angels and Los Angels Dodgers.

He averages 6.6 walks and 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

In two outings this year for the Angels, Wall gave up six runs in a total of one inning (54.00 ERA).

In 2012, Wall put up 28 saves at Triple-A Albuquerque. The Pirates could be looking ahead to 2015, when they will need a replacement for Grilli.

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

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