PITTSBURGH — Languishing near the bottom of the NL Central a year after making the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Pirates couldn’t wait any longer for struggling left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez to get it together.
The Pirates designated the 35-year-old veteran for assignment Thursday, less than 24 hours after Rodriguez gave up six runs in 1 2-3 innings in a 9-8 victory over Baltimore.
“In our mind we felt best served to cut ties because in my mind I’m thinking, ‘You know what? I’ve seen guys of his ilk pitch backwards and recreate themselves.’ ... We didn’t feel that was our best option,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s healthy his arm is healthy. He said it best, ‘Sometimes you give everything you got and it’s not good enough.”’
Rodriguez was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in six starts this season. He spent time on the disabled list earlier in the year with a right knee inflammation. Though he insisted the knee was “OK” after his poor outing on Wednesday, Rodriguez allowed he was frustrated by his ineffectiveness.
The Pirates plan to fill Rodriguez’s spot in the rotation with either right-hander Brandon Cumpton or left-hander Jeff Locke, an unlikely All-Star a year ago. Cumpton is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in two starts with Pittsburgh this season and has been dominant at Triple-A Indianapolis, where he is 4-1 with a 1.35 ERA. Locke is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA at Triple-A.
“We’ve got a really good, real challenging decision,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We’ve got the ability to make a change if it doesn’t work or have another option come up if we face another injury while we probably will.”
Cutting Rodriguez will be costly for a team with one of baseball’s lowest payrolls. Acquired in a trade with Houston in 2012, Rodriguez is scheduled to make $13 million this season, with the Pirates picking up $7 million of the tab. Rodriguez went 11-10 with a 4.16 ERA in 30 starts with the Pirates.
Huntington acknowledged the move will certainly raise eyebrows in a clubhouse that began Thursday at just 19-26 and well back of front-running Milwaukee in the NL Central. Yet Huntington felt it’s one the team had to make. Pittsburgh’s starting rotation — a major strength while the team pushed to its first playoff berth in more than two decades last fall — has regressed significantly. The four starters not named Gerrit Cole are a combined 1-17 this season.
Pittsburgh replaced Rodriguez on the roster Thursday by activating catcher Russell Martin from the disabled list. Martin hasn’t played since straining his left hamstring against St. Louis on April 25. He will have to serve a one-game suspension for his role in a brawl against the Milwaukee Brewers last month and is expected to return to the lineup on Friday against Washington.